"We are the Sixth man", an interview with Coach Lindsey
Updated: Apr 2, 2019
There are moments in your life when you will recognize that silence is necessary in a conversation and the best will follow. Such was the moment on a Wednesday morning in mid-March when I met Larry Lindsey, the coach of the Wake Forest High School Hall of Fame inductees: the 1971 and 1972 Basketball teams and namesake of the gymnasium we play in today.
I started off with routine interview questions – “how did you start coaching?” ,“to what do credit your success?” (Patience, dear reader, we will get to those).
When that crystalline moment arrived, a grin emerged on Coach Lindsey's face and he stared off past the chairs in the room in which we sat, past the end of his driveway - truth be told, and I checked this on Google maps, in the exact direction of Larry Lindsey Gymnasium at Wake Forest High School. He left the 21st century behind and went back to 6 seconds on a clock somewhere in 1971 and took me with him…
“We were in the semi-finals. We were only down by one, there were 6 seconds left on the clock. Andy Hartsfield was trying to get it down court to Alvin Massenburg but knew he couldn’t make it to him in time and took the shot himself from half-court. The buzzer rang just as the ball left his hand…and he missed.” In everything I have ever known about basketball, that was it – that was the end; I was wrong.
“The other team flooded the court. The referees got in there and tried to get everyone back. Andy had been fouled in taking the shot. Everyone had to get pushed back off of the court so Andy could take the shot. I looked Andy in the eye and said ‘now just relax and take your shots – don’t be jumping around’. He made them both and we won the semi-finals by 1 point”. Amazing. Coach Lindsey tells the story of those years, and the ones that followed, as if you’re watching a movie something along the lines of “Remember the Titans” or “McFarland”.
Coach Lindsey started out his basketball career as a Guard at Youngsville High School before receiving a full scholarship to NC State. After breaking his ankle he went to Pembroke College and then drafted into the Army. His dream had always been to Coach basketball.
Lindsey: “Back then they didn’t fix broken ankles.”
“The Army didn’t 4F you for the broken ankle?”
Lindsey: “No, in the Army they weren’t worried about me running down court and breaking left or right. Although you might still have been running…”
Larry married the love of his life, Cherie, and having two kids, Andi and Shea, and their five beautiful grandchildren: Emily, Abbey, Natalie, Carson, and Cameron. Lindsey returned to coaching at Youngsville High School. After achieving two (2) State 1A basketball championships at Youngsville, Lindsey came to Wake Forest-Rolesville High School in 1970.
The team won the State Championship in 1971 with Coach Lindsey, a tall order for his first year as coach of the team. Many of the members of that winning team were seniors and graduated that year. An article from The Wake Weekly dated March 9, 1972 reads:
“We won’t have a team this year”, got no argument except from those who knew Larry Lindsey, The said “wait and see”. The team started out weak; at Christmas they were playing 4A teams and losing, but they kept learning and by conference time, they took the trophy (which they had missed last year due to a loss to a 3A team), went to the district and then to the state.”
Allen, B. (1972, March 9) When Ball Fever Breaks Out Winning Makes it Worse…Exciting Disease!. The Wake Weekly, p. 7.
When asked about how he was able to accomplish this he replied, “You can’t project your coaching philosophy onto a team. Your team will project their abilities to you and you have to work with that. If they don’t jump, you’re wasting your time working on jump drills. If they can’t run, you don’t spend your time running”. Coach Lindsey is as humble as he is wise. When asked about his players he replied, “I never put any points in the scorebook, that was all the players – and the sixth man, the ‘silent partner’”. He said he attributes the strength of the teams then to the parental support – being there for practice, supporting the athletes, “the athletes and the parents jelled as one, that’s what made us a great team”.
I asked if he followed basketball and he said he did although he wouldn’t let on as to a specific team, only to say “..anyone in the ACC, and if it comes down to two of them, well then I have to root for the underdog; it’s the coach that’s been given less to work with that will work harder”. In 1972, Coach Lindsey made the pages of Sports Illustrated and led the team that year to another State victory.
What advice would he give today’s athletes? “Winning isn’t points, it helps, but winning is playing with your heart and everything you’ve got and when you walk off that court, or that field, you know in your heart you did your best.”
On May 2nd, the Wake Forest High School is proud to induct the Wake Forest-Rolesville High School basketball teams of 1971 and 1972 into the Hall of Fame. We hope you can join us and meet the legends that walked the halls of the Wake Forest-Rolesville High School and played with their hearts on the field at Trentini Stadium or on the boards of the Larry Lindsey Gymnasium and be the sixth man. Go Cougars!