Obituary: Darrell Gissendanner | Former Clairton High, Pitt basketball star
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After earning seven varsity letters in basketball at Clairton High School and four more at the University of Pittsburgh, Darrell Gissendanner wasn't ready for his athletic career to be over.
Although he had never played organized football, the Clairton native tried out for the Steelers. Mr. Gissendanner made it to the final round of cuts twice before missing out on a roster spot each time.
Those high ambitions surprised nobody who knew him.
"That was the way he lived his life," said Kirk Bruce, Mr. Gissendanner's high school basketball coach and Pitt's current associate athletic director. "He lived his life the way he played basketball, which was all-out. He never held back."
Mr. Gissendanner died Friday in Utah. He lived in Chicago for the past three years working for the city housing authority and trying to start his own business, said his daughter, Brittany. He was 53. Cause of death has yet to be determined.
"People who coached Darrell will tell you, the main thing they kept telling him was, 'Darrell, slow down,' " Mr. Bruce said. "He was always so quick, always so fast. He just wanted to do whatever you wanted him to do, and right away. He didn't have any wait in him. He was just full bore."
His proactive mentality earned Mr. Gissendanner four basketball and three baseball letters at Clairton High School. He was also named MVP for both teams his senior season, 1977-78.
"Darrell was passionate about everything and everybody," Mr. Bruce said. "Everything he got involved with he did to his absolute best. Anyone he got to know, he was their friend no matter what."
From Clairton, Mr. Gissendanner continued his athletic career at Pitt.
"He played ball, and was a good student according to the way I understood it," said K.T. Gissendanner, Darrell Gissendanner's uncle.
Darrell Gissendanner majored in information science at the university and led the Panthers to one NIT and two NCAA tournament appearances.
"I was two years older than Darrell, and I looked to him like a younger brother," said Sam Clancy, a fundraising coordinator at Pitt and one of Mr. Gissendanner's teammates. "He would always ask me questions, and I would always tease him a little bit."
Mr. Gissendanner appeared in 94 games in his Panthers career. In many respects, he remained an athlete his entire life.
"If he walked in the room right now, he'd look exactly the way he looked in college," Mr. Bruce said. "A very fit young man who took care of himself."
Ms. Gissendanner, 26, said her first thoughts upon his death were of his passion for basketball.
"He's why I played basketball," she said. "He was a great dad, and he would do anything for me."
In addition to his daughter and uncle, he is survived by his mother, Ann White; and his brothers, Terry and Tyrone.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
First Published June 13, 2012 12:00 am