Bones McKinney


Every time I hear the question asked "What ever happened to all the characters we used to have in the ACC", one name comes to mind before all others. Horace "Bones" McKinney, native of Durham, N.C. who played on a Durham High School team that supplied 5 starters to Big 4 schools, 4 to Duke (Gantt, Carver, Garland Loftis and Cedric Loftis) and 1 to N.C. State. Bones would probably have gone to Duke but he got into some difficulty with Duke officials when he got caught trying to sneak unto a Duke game and decided his future was in Raleigh with the Red Terrors. Yes, you heard me correctly, the nickname of the N.C. State basketball team in the 30's when McKinney attended "State College" was the Red  Terrors and the Tar Heel basketball team was known as the "White Phantoms" These names were phased out in the 40's and all sports teams at these two institutions assumed the nicknames of Wolfpack and Tar Heels.

I first met Bones in December of 1942 when he and his team from the Fort Bragg Reception Center competed in an all military service tournament in Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh. My cousin from Winston-Salem had come to Raleigh to see her boyfriend Hugh Hampton play who was also on the Fort Bragg team. I was 10 years old at the time and just beginning to discover basketball. McKinney came by the house with Hampton after they beat Fort Jackson to win the championship and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. I can't remember why I wasn't invited to attend the game. It must have had something to do with me possibly being in the way after the game with my cousin and Hampton, but anyway, Hampton won the MVP of the tournament and brought his trophy with him. I even had my photograph taken with the two of them to show off at school later in the week. No 1 hour photo processing then. My cousin told me a story later that I find amusing now but I'm sure was not amusing at the time. She said when Mrs. McKinney, Bones' wife saw the trophy she said to Hampton, "Why did you win that trophy? You knew Bones wanted to win it for his son". It's easy to say she was kidding but my cousin felt she was serious. I never asked what Hampton said in response.

Bones enrolled at UNC after the war and, of course, was an important part of the '45-'46 UNC team which was national runner-ups, losing to Oklahoma A&M 43-40. Oklahoma A&M had Bob "Foothills" Kurland, the first 7 footer I had ever heard of and Bones didn't fare too well against him, scoring only 6 points. The others on that team were Bob Paxton, John "Hook" Dillon, Jim Jordan and Jim White.

Bones used to love to tell the story of a situation that occurred in the semi-final game against Ohio State. Carolina was down 2 late in the game and Bob Paxton fired a long shot from near mid court. Bones shouted "no" but it was too late. The ball swished through the nets and as they say "the rest is history' as the Heels went on to victory.

Bones didn't play but 1 year for the Heels even though he had played only 2 years for State. He may have been the first area player to bolt for the pros. Keep in mind, he was married and had at least one child when he went pro. He played for several years with the Washington Capitols and was considered to be an above average pro player on a less than average pro team.

Bones then returned to N.C. where he served for several years as an asst. to Murray Greason at Wake Forest and replaced Greason when he retired. Bones' teams were always competitive and will forever be remembered for the 3 extremely close games they gave Carolina in the '57 national championship season. He never quite got over the block/charge call that enabled UNC to beat Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament semi-final game. He talked about it for years and I will admit is was a close call. Wendell Carr collided with Rosenbluth on his famous last second shot and it could have been called either way. The shot put Carolina ahead and the free throw enabled us to escape with a 2 point win. Remember, this was at a time that only 1 team from the ACC could go to the NCAA tournament and if Wake had won that game,  Carolina would have gone no where even though they would have lost only 1 game.

Bones slowly faded at Wake Forest and one of my semi-inside sources told me he wasn't behaving as he should have. Keep in mind, Bones was an ordained minister and the 50s-60s were another time altogether from the norms we have today Wake Forest was not exactly the place for a free spirit back then. They had just had a big controversy over whether dancing would be allowed on campus or not.

Bones left Wake Forest and coached in the old ABA for a while .The last I heard of him other than the occasional appearances he would make on the ACC telecasts was that he was working in a public relations capacity for a furniture manufacturer in N.C. Bones passed several years ago and his ashes were scattered where it all began...at Durham High School.

I've probably spent too much time on a chronology of Bones' career and life and not enough on what made him such a character. Several of his antics stand out. Like the time he put a seat belt on his chair to prevent him from getting technical fouls during games. That didn't last long. Or the time he got so frustrated with his Wake Forest team in a game at old Memorial Gym in Charlottesville that he left the bench and went into the stands and sat with the students. You can imagine how they loved that.

I never heard anybody say a bad word about Bones You could mention his name and people would begin to smile. I think one of the reasons for his popularity was that he would do things that we could relate to. He was one of us. He was in demand as an after dinner speaker and, even though I never heard him preach, I bet he was a fine preacher also.

Don't know if institutions would tolerate somebody like Bones today. Too many sensitivities involved and too many constituencies to satisfy. He represents a time that is long gone and will soon be forgotten.

In closing, let me give you the gem of Bones' quotes:

"The trouble with officials is they don't care who wins".


Horace "Bones" McKinney, ACC player, coach and certified character

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