Obituary: Julius McCoy / Basketball star in '50s at Farrell High School

Feb. 21, 1932 - April 4, 2008

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More than 50 years after he starred in basketball at Farrell High School, Julius McCoy's 1,471 career points still stand as the school record.

"He was the greatest player to come out of Farrell," said Dr. Jim Kollar, a teammate of McCoy's and a semi-retired dentist in Hermitage, Mercer County. "He's a legend in Farrell."

Mr. McCoy died of complications from diabetes at his home in Harrisburg Friday. He was 76.

At 6 feet, Mr. McCoy was the tallest player on Farrell's 1951-52 team that was 29-1 and won the first of seven PIAA championships under coach Ed McCluskey.

"You have to remember, it was a different time than today," Dr. Kollar said. "He played pivot inside. We were called the 'Mighty Midgets.' He would have two or three guys guarding him, but he could score anytime he wanted. He was very smooth and was ahead of his time."

Mr. McCoy also held the school record for most points in a game with 40 until Myron Lowe scored 51 against Summit Academy in 2002.

"Even when he was in his 60s, Julius was in great shape. He was playing in the [YMCA] over-40 leagues," Dr. Kollar said. "He was a tremendous athlete."

Mr. McCoy went on to become an All-American basketball player at Michigan State University in 1956 and averaged 20.9 points in his collegiate career. He was named the Michigan State athlete of the year in 1956 for his excellence in football, basketball and track.

Mr. McCoy was selected by the St. Louis Hawks in the 1956 NBA draft, but his pro basketball career was delayed for two years because he also was drafted by the Army.

Mr. McCoy played 12 seasons with Williamsport and Sunbury in the Eastern Professional Basketball League and was the commissioner of the league for a brief time. He also toured with the Harlem Globetrotters. He was named to the Continental Basketball Association all-time team in 1996.

Mr. McCoy influenced many of the younger basketball players who followed in his footsteps at Farrell.

"He probably was what we would consider a Terrelle Pryor-type at that time," said Brian Generalovich, a former basketball player at Farrell and the University of Pittsburgh. "He was a superstar."

Mr. Generalovich and Willie Somerset, who later starred at Duquesne University, also played at Farrell under the strict coaching regime of Mr. McCluskey.

Mr. McCluskey made all of his players shoot free throws with an underhand style -- all except for Mr. McCoy, that is.

"Julius was the only player he allowed to shoot overhand," Mr. Generalovich said. "Julius could take a game over."

A left-hander, Mr. McCoy was nicknamed "Hooks" because of his unstoppable hook shot.

Mr. McCoy was a teacher and boys' basketball coach at Harrisburg John Harris High School from 1971 to 1983 and was director in the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Bureau of Equal Opportunity from 1983 to 2004.

"He was a gentleman and well-respected and well-liked by everyone in every field he was in," Dr. Kollar said. "He was a very quiet individual and sometimes you had to pull some words out of him."

Mr. McCoy's brother, James, also starred at Farrell and later at Marquette and with the Pittsburgh Rens of the old American Basketball League. Mr. McCoy's nephew, Jim, starred at Central Catholic High School and was on John Calipari's first basketball teams at the University of Massachusetts.

Mr. McCoy is survived by his wife, Betty, a son, Julius Jr., and a daughter, Judith McCoy Jordan, all of Harrisburg; his brother, James of Pittsburgh; and two sisters, Jean Sims of Farrell and Vivian Williams of Sharon.

Viewing will be today from 10 to 11 a.m. at Capitol Presbyterian Church, 14th and Cumberland, Harrisburg. Burial will be at Rolling Green Cemetery in Camp Hill, Cumberland County.


Correction/Clarification: (Published April 12, 2008) Brian Generalovich and Willie Somerset were basketball teammates at Farrell High School in 1959 and 1960. Julius McCoy, who died April 4, 2008 played at Farrell in the early 1950s. This obituary as originally published April 11, 2008 incorrectly said the three had played together.

Phil Axelrod can be reached at paxelrod@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1967.


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