One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about friends of my friends. The post below is the story on a friend of a friend for January 15, 2015.
When I began as basketball coach at Winthrop University in 1992 one of the unintended benefits was the fact that a great man was in place to be one of my assistant coaches. He also became a very good friend and godfather to my youngest son Mack.
That Friend/Assistant Coach was Bobby Stevens who in 2014 was voted to the ACC Men’s Basketball Legends Class. I as very proud and happy that Bobby received that recognition.
Bobby was a sharpshooting, ball-hawking guard who helped provide the leadership for head coach Don Devoe’s 1973 Virginia Tech basketball team which ended up winning the school’s first national championship in basketball, claiming the 1973 National Invitation Tournament title in New York’s Madison Square Garden. It should be noted that in 1973 the Hokies played all 4 games in MSG in the span of a week.
Playing alongside two of the top players in Tech history in Allen Bristow and Craig Lieder, Stevens, at 5-10, would not be hard to overlook. But the scrappy native of Chester, Pa., happened to make all of the right plays in that star-crossed year for the Hokies. A transfer from Ferrum College, Stevens was playing his first season in Division I Basketball and he proved to be the final piece the Hokies needed.
He averaged just 9.7 points a game that year, and though he was a good passer and ball handler, assists in those days were not kept. Tech finished the 1973 regular season with an 18-5 and earned a berth in the NIT at a time when the NCAA Tournament took only 24 teams. Still, that year Virginia Tech had won games at Ohio State, West Virginia and Wake Forest and made their way through the NIT defeating New Mexico, Fairfield and Alabama by a total of just four points in a series of nail biters in which Stevens played a major role.
Now facing Notre Dame in the NIT Championship it appeared as if time had run out as with six minutes remaining, Tech trailed by 12 points. Stevens, benched earlier, came back late to help force the game into overtime. With the clock running down and Tech trailing by a point, Stevens, who had seven points in the overtime session, threw up a shot which missed, but he was able to get the long rebound and quickly put up a shot at the buzzer that gave the Hokies a one-point overtime upset win over the Irish and the NIT Championship.
Stevens would go on to play one more year for Tech and then had an abortive tryout with the Virginia Squires before beginning a long coaching career which included time at Virginia Tech, Tennessee, and Florida. While at Tennessee he developed a friendship with Women’s Basketball Coach and Hall of Famer-Pat Summitt.
He recently retired as head basketball coach at Rock Hill High in Rock Hill, S.C. He stays involved in basketball by serving as an analyst on the Big South Network for Winthrop Basketball games.
Bobby is married to his wife Missy and has a beautiful daughter named Traci. He won a State Championship in Boys Basketball at Rock Hill High School in 2006 having his team post an impressive 22-4 record.
The Friend-BOBBY STEVENS
Bobby Stevens -Assistant Coach at Univ. of Tennessee-1982 SEC Championship Team-(back row far left)
Bobby Stevens hitting winning shot against Notre Dame in 1973 NIT Championship at Madison Square Garden
Bobby Stevens in white shirt with former 1973 Va. Tech Assistant Coaches -Jim Hallihan (hat) and Sonny Smith on left.
The Friend of the Friend-PAT SUMMITT
Bobby Stevens and the Pat Summitt friendship
Bobby has always been a people person and that was evident to our basketball team at Winthrop in the mid 90’s when we traveled to Knoxville TN to take on the Vols. The night before the game we practiced in Thompson-Boling Arena and the whole team looked in awe as Pat Summitt called out Bobby’s name in the middle of practice walked onto the court and gave Bobby a big hug. She apologized to the team and me but said she loved Bobby Stevens. Bobby sheepishly asked her if he could see her after practice and she said yes.
After practice Coach Summitt led the Winthrop Eagles on a tour of Thompson-Boling and talked about her then 6 year old son Tyler to her friend Bobby Stevens.
As most people know Pat Summitt lost a battle with demntia and Alzheimer’s on June 28, 2016. Back on a November night in the mid 1990’s her mind was razor sharp and her friendship and loyalty to my friend and her friend Bobby Stevens will not be forgotten.