Former UK assistant coach guiding Mercer middle school team

December 22, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

HARRODSBURG - Basketball has not changed that much since Dickie Parsons last coached in 1980, but the references he can use have.

Parsons was an assistant basketball coach at the University of Kentucky from 1969-80 after spending the previous seven years coaching high school basketball at Glasgow and Boyle County.

He was on the bench with Joe Hall in 1978 when Jack Givens led Kentucky to the national championship.

Now he's on the bench with a vastly different team - the boys seventh-grade team at King Middle School in Mercer County.

"It's really been fun," Parsons said. "I tell them this is the same thing Jack Givens did in 1978, and it will still work if we just execute. Of course, sometimes they look at me and I can tell they are thinking, 'Who is Jack Givens?'


"I forget they are just 13 and don't know who some of those past players are. They know the current UK players, but I've learned you can't mention many names from the past because they are so young."

Coaching the team that includes his grandson, Ward Dedman, has made Parsons feel younger than his 65 years.

"One or two of the players might have seen a picture of me when they attended a UK game," said Parsons, who played for Adolph Rupp at Kentucky and was captain of the 1961 team. "Obviously, some parents knew me.

"But I've really had fun. It's a neat school with good administrators and teachers. I always thought the Boyle County and Danville school systems were outstanding, but I'm impressed with the way things are managed here, too."

Donald Yocum, King's eighth-grade coach, persuaded Parsons to coach the team. He knew Parsons had a cabin in Mercer County and that he had watched most of his grandson's games the previous two years.

"I thought all he could do was say no," Yocum said. "As luck would have it, he said yes, and we're very lucky to have him. He's helped me at my practices, too, and I can't tell you how much I've already learned from him."

Parsons apparently was not hard to sell on sharing his knowledge with the young King players.

"Rather than the kids not have the proper practice time, I said I might as well do something constructive with my time and help out," Parsons said. "I've always watched my grandson. He goes with me to a lot of UK basketball and football games. He's always been my sidekick, and I just thought it might be fun to coach him and his friends."

His daughter, Kathy Dedman, thought it was a good idea for her father to coach the team.

"She was hoping I would do it because she thought I could help the kids," Parsons said. "My wife keeps saying she hopes my grandson can survive because I get after him like everyone else. He has to be corrected, too. But I think I realize kids need encouragement more than anything else.

"I try to demand that they play well defensively, but I know they will make mistakes offensively. It's just important to keep working on fundamentals and encouraging them. We are getting better, too. We've won our last five."

Parsons says he's been pleasantly surprised by the talent and coaching at the seventh-grade level.

"You have to take time to cover everything, because these teams are all well-coached," Parsons said. "You can't leave anything untouched, but it also has to be simple enough to make sure they get it. You can't be too complex. I try to keep it simple and let them have fun.

"We do some of the same things we did 20 years ago at Kentucky. We run some of the same plays. Basketball is not that different now.

"The big key still is making decisions on the floor. Any player this young has trouble playing outside the offense. Sometimes they are not going to be where you want them. I just encourage them to do something with the ball."

Parsons uses a pressing, running style. He feels that not only is it more fun for the players, but it also makes it easier for him to use more players.

He also stresses that there is more to winning than scoring.

"When we first started and someone made a good pass and we scored, no one said anything," the former UK assistant said. "I told them if someone makes a good pass, tell him. Then he'll want to do it again.

"Our focus level is not always good enough, but that goes with the age. I've had to crack down at times, but they always respond. They want to learn, and they have been open to learning more some of the finer points of the game."

He was a fund-raiser for UK when he retired

Parsons, like most of his current players, grew up a Kentucky basketball fan. His love for UK never wavered and when he left coaching, he became a full-time fund-raiser for Kentucky until his retirement in 1999 left him with time to work on his golf game (he's an 8 handicap) and enjoy his rustic cabin in Mercer County.

"I have a tract of land with a lot of wildlife," he said. "I really like spending time there."

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