COACHING ICON DIES: Steele, a standout at Wake Forest, coached at Guilford, High Point and for the ABA Carolina Cougars
By Richard Walker
The second professional basketball coach in state history died Sunday at 82.
Jerry Steele was a standout player at Wake Forest before building championship college basketball programs at Guilford and High Point.
He also spent half of the 1970-71 Carolina Cougars’ season of the old American Basketball Association (ABA) as head coach after inaugural coach Horace “Bones” McKinney was fired.
Steele is remembered most for guiding Guilford and High Point basketball to national prominence.
His Guilford teams went 150-76 from 1962 to 1970 while winning two Conference Carolinas titles and four NAIA District 26 championships. Among the players he coached were eventual NBA standout Bob Kauffman.
His High Point teams won a school-record 495 games while winning eight league titles with one NAIA District 26 title and two NCAA Division II playoff appearances. Among the players head coached were eventual NCAA basketball championship-winning coach Tubby Smith, who currently is High Point’s head coach.
An All-ACC academic team member at Wake Forest who hailed from Elkin, Steele also served as High Point’s athletic director from 1972 to 1998.
He is a member of five halls of fame: NAIA, North Carolina Sports, Guilford County Sports, Wake Forest Sports and the inaugural High Point Sports.
“Jerry Steele represented the best of HPU,” High Point University President Nido Qubein said in a school news release. “I’ve known him for three decades and always admired his spirited commitment to the university. We will certainly miss him. His legacy lives on.”
Added Smith: “Coach Steele has been a pillar in this community and in this state. He is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the term. What I loved about playing for Coach Steele is that he was a man of principles. He was fair, he always kept things light he always someone I could count on and call on when I made a decision. He is one of those men once you knew him whether you played for him or knew him at all, he left an impression on you.”
Steele is survived by his wife Kitty Steele who spent many years alongside him at High Point University as a hall of fame coach in her own right.