Seth Coy was remembered Thursday as a big kid with a big heart by those around the East Tennessee State basketball program.
The rising sophomore died Wednesday night on a rain-slick Kentucky highway as he was driving from campus to his home in Montgomery, Ind. He was 19.
News of Coy’s death — the first of an active ETSU athlete in memory — cast a pall over Memorial Center on a damp, dreary day. The handful of basketball players attending summer school met with athletic director Dave Mullins, assistant coach Mike Boyd and counselors to grieve together.
“All the athletes here become part of our family,” said Mullins, “and when you lose one, it becomes very difficult. This is a tragic loss for us.”
Head coach Murry Bartow was on a recruiting trip in Kansas City when notified of the accident on Interstate 64 outside Louisville late Wednesday night. He was still clearly shaken after having a night to digest it.
“Seth was just a great kid with a world of potential,” said Bartow. “We’re all devastated by this. I’ve never been in a situation like it, and certainly hope I never am again.”
At 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds, with size 20 sneakers, Coy was a sight to behold. It didn’t take him long to become a fan favorite in the Dome.
As a player, Coy was still something of a left-handed project who had pleasantly surprised with his mobility and feel for the game. Away from the court, he was as approachable and engaging as a giant-sized freshman could be.
“He had a great personality, just a fun-loving kid that was so well-liked by everybody,” said Bartow. “He didn’t play a lot for us last year, although he gave us some real good minutes. But internally he was a key part of the team because of his wit and personality.”
Coy had to overcome stress fractures in both feet soon after his arrival at ETSU and played sparingly down the stretch as the Bucs won the Atlantic Sun Conference championship. He suffered another blow after the season when he was arrested for driving under the influence in early April, but reportedly was working hard to put that behind him.
He had been on campus throughout the summer and was just going home for a couple of days. The fact he won’t be coming back was hard for his teammates to accept.
Adam Sollazzo roomed with Coy during their freshman year and said it was an experience he’ll always cherish.
“Best guy I’ve ever met,” Sollazzo said from his home in Tampa, Fla. “Seth took care of me like he was my big brother. Every day was a blessing to be his roommate … I’m really going to miss him.”
Sollazzo expects some of the intangibles Coy brought to the team to be sorely missed.
“He had such a positive impact on every person he met,” Sollazzo said. “If you were having a horrible day, he was the guy to put a smile back on your face and lift your spirits. I really can’t put into words what he meant to the team. I think I speak for everybody when I say we want to dedicate this whole season to him. He’ll never be forgotten.”
Mike Smith, a rising senior and team captain, remembers Coy “was always so joyful, so happy. He was just a great guy to be around.”
Junior guard Micah Williams said Coy was “probably the most giving person I’ve ever known. If you asked for something, he was happy to give it to you. He just loved people.”
Funeral arrangements in Indiana were incomplete Thursday afternoon, but Bartow and his staff were making plans to attend. Assistants Scott Wagers and Will Bailey have been recruiting in Florida.
Bartow wasn’t sure how many of the players could be rounded up during summer break.
“Obviously we all want to be there, and certainly me and the staff will be there,” he said. “It’s just a matter of players being scattered all over the place right now.”
The coach had spoken with Coy’s mother on Wednesday night.
“I had a good talk with her,” he said. “She was like any other mother would be when she gets that news. She’s a good lady and obviously in shock. I think we all are.”