Remembering a coaching legend

Published 12:55 pm Friday, April 6, 2018


Daily News

For parts of four decades, Richard “Dick” Shrewsbury was a fixture on the bench at LaGrange High basketball games.

He took over the boys’ basketball program in 1963, and for nearly 30 years, he was the Grangers’ head coach.

Shrewsbury stepped aside following the 1989-1990 season, and he left behind a remarkable legacy.

Shrewsbury was not only one of the state’s most successful coaches, leading his teams to three state championships and a pair of runner-up finishes, but he helped guide the school through the tumultuous times of integration while making a positive impact on so many of the hundreds of student-athletes he led during his time at the school.

After retiring from coaching, Shrewsbury remained active in the community, and he attended one of the LaGrange basketball games last season.

Shrewsbury died on Saturday at the age of 89, and his funeral was held on Thursday morning as his life was celebrated.

Shrewsbury is part of a fairly small fraternity of men who have held the position of boys’ basketball coach at LaGrange.

For a stretch of 65 years, in fact, there were only four men who occupied that post, Al Mariotti, Shrewsbury, Rus Wheless and Mike Pauley.

Pauley took over from Wheless in 1995, and he was head coach for 20 seasons before turning things over to Mark Veal.

“When I took the job in 1995, he was one of the first guys to congratulate me, and he called me to the house and gave me some material,” Pauley said. “Over the years, he’d tell me some things they did, and I would ask him what’s your favorite in-bounds play, that kind of thing. He was very gracious with his time. He always had great things to tell me.”

When Shrewsbury began his tenure at LaGrange, he had a hard act to follow after replacing Mariotti.

He was up to the task.

Shrewsbury led LaGrange to state championships in 1963, 1965 and 1977, and his teams finished second in the state in 1984 and 1985.

In 1977, LaGrange beat an unbeaten Southwest Macon 65-64 for Shrewsbury’s third and final state championship.

After that memorable championship game, Shrewsbury said “I’ve never been prouder of a bunch of kids than this one. I felt the same way in ’63 and ’65 in winning those state titles and the feeling here is the same.”

Shrewsbury was at LaGrange when the school was integrated, and the program seamlessly made that transition.

“The biggest thing that stands out to me was he was able to win with a very diverse group of people,” Pauley said. “Starting off it was all white, and he essentially finished coaching and most of the team was black.”

The man who replaced Shrewsbury was Russ Wheless, and those two coached alongside each other for years.

In a remembrance posted on, Wheless expressed his appreciation and admiration for coach Shrewsbury.

“I spent a decade of my life beside the man,” Wheless wrote. “We walked, we laughed, we worked, we plotted and schemed, we fought together, we won, we lost, we cried, we fished, and more.”

Wheless added that “he was my mentor. He was a second father figure, but above all else, he was my friend.”

Wheless recalls a special time the two had together late last year.

“When I visited him last Thanksgiving, we took up as tough we had not been apart for several years,” Wheless said. “Again, we talked, we laughed, we recollected, and when it was time for me to go, we embraced and tears welled up in my eyes. I feared that it would be the last time that I saw him.”

Wheless finished by writing “I love you, coach. Rest in peace, and remember, you can put what most people know about basketball in a thimble and it still wouldn’t be half full.”

Another one of Shrewsbury’s coaching peers was Donnie Branch, who arrived at LaGrange High in 1986 and took over the baseball program a few years later.

“He was a great mentor to me and had tons of wisdom and knowledge that he willingly shared,” said Branch, who like Shrewsbury enjoyed immense success at the school. “Coach was also a great husband, dad, friend and Granger. He was truly a legend.”

David Pleasants, a former football coach at LaGrange High, got to know Shrewsbury as well as another successful coach at the school, Oliver Hunnicutt.

Hunnicutt won multiple state championships in football while at LaGrange.

Pleasants calls Shrewsbury a “legendary coach and a humble man. I had the honor to get to know both he and coach Hunnicutt. Both I am sure had offers to go to bigger places, but chose to make their mark in a community they loved and I hope they know loved them. Well done good and faithful servants.”

Lee Richter, who played for Shrewsbury at LaGrange and has gone to enjoy a phenomenal career of his own as the golf coach at LaGrange College, always enjoyed the opportunity to reminisce with his friend.

“When I saw him at the ball games he and I talked about the good ole days,” Richter said. “I still remember some of the plays we ran. Can’t remember what I ate for dinner but can remember the shot from the corner Luke Kelley hit to beat Newton County at their place 78 to 76. He and I also talked about a state championship game where a team in the finals played with six guys for a couple of minutes. Cost us a state championship. Great coach as well as a great guy.”

Mike Moncus played for Shrewsbury, and he later coached with him.

“I had coach Shrewsbury as a teacher when he came to (LaGrange) from Jordan High School in Colmbus,” Moncus said. “I finished college and was fortunate enough to return to LHS as a teacher and coach. I was also fortunate enough to get to work with coach Shrewsbury and his basketball teams for many years. What a ride. We played all over Georgia and in the Tech coliseum for state championships. He was a great basketball coach, but even more important he was a great role model for us.

Jodi Ward got to know Shrewsbury in a different capacity as his pharmacist.

“I have had the sweet pleasure of being his pharmacist for several years,” she said. “He came in to see me all the time and always wanted to chat, about my kids, my husband, my day. He was such a happy, positive, and loving man. He always asked me about my friends who went to LaGrange with me while he was coaching there. He was more than a sweet customer. He was a sweet friend that I will miss dearly.”

Pauley said while Shrewsbury had his physical difficulties over the years, he remained vibrant and a joy to be around.

“He came to a game this year,” Pauley said. “And three weeks ago he was high-fiving and hugging me.

“He was just such a kind man. He had such an effect on people.”

OF NOTE: For more remembrances on coach Shrewsbury, go to