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Former players, coaches remember Whorton 12/7/21

Former players, coaches remember Whorton

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


First-year Alma assistant girls coach Chanlee Bottoms was having a hard time Monday. So were thousands of other players who played basketball, high school or college, for the late Louis Whorton. 


Whorton passed away Sunday following a short illness. He was 71. 


“I was talking to one of my teammates yesterday,” Bottoms said, tears streaming down her face. “I said, ‘He brought student-athletes from all over the world with different types of backgrounds, and he taught us to love, battle, and to care as a unit.’


“He was like a father to so many players.”


Bottoms led the Lady Airedales to a 2005 state championship. She later signed with Whorton’s Lady Lions team.


“He came to County Line (High School) when I was a freshman, and back then the junior high coach (Bill Gossage) coached the junior high, and the high school coach (Whorton), coached the senior girls and boys,” remembered former guard Christy Looney. “I was terrified of him. Being a freshman, and him coming over from Subiaco, he was intimidating.”


Whorton spent two seasons coaching the Lady Indians before being picked to coach at Westark College (UAFS). The Hartford native never left.


Longtime Trinity Junior High coach Jeff Meares said Whorton would break down kids at practice and then ask them what they were doing that night. “When it was time to coach, he coached,” Meares said.


When Louis Whorton recruited you, players rarely said no. 


“Louis had a special way when it came to recruiting,” Meares said. “He didn’t walk in looking like Pat Riley, but when he got you to sit down and talk with him, you were done — you were a Lady Lion. 


“He and Pat (Whorton) may have had one son (Jeremy), but they had 1,200 daughters.”


Pat Whorton taught Kindergarten in Alma before years later becoming an administrator. Her first year to teach Kindergarten was in 1986. 


She retired from Alma schools in 2013. 


“There isn’t anything Pat and Louis wouldn't do for anyone,” Alma superintendent of schools David Woolly said Monday. “It’s really hard to put into words.”


Whorton had six 30-win seasons for the Lady Lions, most of that coming when the school was among the top Junior College programs in the nation. Even after UAFS became a division II school in 2009, Whorton held his own by compiling a record of 110-82 between 2009-16, his last season to coach. 


In the seven seasons since, UAFS coaches Elena Lavato (2016-18); Tari Cummings (2018-21), and Ryan McAdams have combined for a 67-69 record. 


Longtime Alma softball coach Charla Parrish coached with Whorton right out of college. 


“I was young and naive, and we’d go to Texas and play,” Parrish said. “When you go to Texas, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Well, Louis got thrown out of the ballgame. He told me, ‘Whatever you do, just don’t get thrown out!’


“There I was 21, being the head coach of a junior college team.”


Former UAFS women's basketball coach Tari Cummings, now an assistant at Baylor, was choked up following news of Whorton's passing.


"Words can't describe the impact that coach Whorton has had on my life on and off the court," Cummings said in a statement. "He was my coach, my mentor, and he was like a father to me; I'm thankful God brought us together.


"I will forever love and cherish him."


“He gave me a chance to be a young coach,” remembers Meares, who spent four seasons working with Whorton and three more coaching with Jeremy Cox’s men's squad before signing on with Trinity Junior High. 


“I love basketball and wanted to coach,” Meares said. “He told me, ‘You’re awfully young, so just give them (players) encouragement and no hugs.’


“He had such a way with kids.”


Like Bottoms, Parrish struggled to get through Monday. 


“Louis was a mentor,” Parrish said. “I was right out of college coaching kids that were just a couple of years younger than me. It was a part-time assistant job back then, and I left and got the job at Alma. He got a (full-time) paid assistant job and I was here for one year and I was going back. (But) at the last minute, I didn’t think that was the best fit for me.


“And the next year (1994-95) they were 35-and-0 and won the national championship.”


During his 23 seasons of competition at the junior college level, Whorton compiled an impressive 538-195 records — an average of 23 wins per season.


In that span, Whorton guided the Lady Lions to one Arkansas JUCO conference championship, three Arkansas State Tournament championships, seven Bi-State East Conference championships, and seven Region II titles. His teams were also Region II runners-up six times. 


Whorton was the NJCAA National Coach of the Year in 1994-95. 


“We would go recruiting to Dallas every Christmas when I was there, and Pat would drop me off at one school and Louis would go to another school,” Parrish said. “There’s a lot of good memories. It’s heartbreaking.


Louis and Pat Whorton were like mom and dad.”


Whorton's overall collegiate record was 648-277. 


In 2016, Whorton told a newspaper upon his decision to retire that “everything good comes to an end, and certainly, I’ve had a great thing as far as my coaching career,” he said. “An old coach told me one time that when you start looking at things in the past and remember what has happened, more than you look at things that are going to happen in the future, that it’s probably time to be doing something else.”