Former HBCU coach writes book about life and sports

Former HBCU coach writes book about life and sports
May 31
04:00 2018

Cyrus Alexander is one of the best and most accomplished coaches to ever roam the sidelines of an HBCU (historically black college and university).  Alexander recently wrote a book about his ups and downs in basketball and his personal life that will soon be released. He will speak at Grace Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem on June 17 for the Father’s Day program.

Alexander, a native of Winston-Salem, is a graduate of Catawba College in the early 1970s.  Following his playing career, he was accepted into law school at Howard University.  He wrote the coach at Howard and became an assistant coach with the team, which was the start of his coaching career.

“I got into college coaching without any experience, and my first year coaching I was 22 years old and some of the guys on the team were older than me,” he said.  “Because I was so young, I worked and prepared myself as thoroughly as possible because I wanted to garner the respect of my players because when I spoke I wanted them to know I knew what I was talking about.”

Alexander spent 11 years at Howard University as an assistant.  He obtained his first head coaching position at South Carolina State.  While there, his teams finished either first or second in the conference 13 out of 16 seasons winning five MEAC titles along the way.

“Part of my book is about the battle HBCU coaches have in getting full respect in the larger sphere of big time college basketball,” said Alexander.  “I finished second for high major jobs like Ohio State, Southern Illinois, Old Dominion and University of Maryland but I never got the job and you wonder if it’s because I come from an HBCU.”

“That’s what the book is about, it’s a David versus Goliath type story.  You have to constantly do more with less and that is the reality of our world, so to speak.”

Alexander has also coached at Tennessee State, Texas A&M at Corpus Christi and North Carolina A&T State University.  In his first year at A&T, he led the Aggies to the MEAC championship, giving them a birth to the NCAA tournament.  Alexander is the only coach to lead two different MEAC schools to the NCAA tournament.

During his first year at A&T, he was battling prostate cancer.  In his second season as head coach, his mother became ill and passed away in June 2014.  At the same time, his wife was diagnosed with colon cancer and passed away in September of the same year.

“In a span of four months, my mother dies and my wife dies and it took its toll on me mentally and physically,” he said.  “I tried to continue doing my job from a coaching standpoint, but I just couldn’t get it done, so the university offered me a position in athletic administration.”

The idea of writing his book, titled “Beyond the Backboard,” came to Alexander the first year he stepped away from coaching.  He says his “unique experience” in the world of coaching allowed him to meet the “who’s who” among basketball players and coaches and wanted to share that with up and coming coaches.

“Writing the book was great therapy for me because I was still dealing with a lot of personal issues with my mom and my wife,” Alexander says.  “It gave me an opportunity to relive 40 years of my life.”

His book is slated to be released in late July or early August.  He will have a book signing at Grace Presbyterian Church once released.

“The book is about two things. One it’s about David versus Goliath and never quitting and understanding that the grind and the uphill battle you have to face and trying to do more with less while being creative in your thinking and never let the obstacles in front of you bring you down,” he said.  “And two, it’s about developing leadership skills for young people and I think it’s a great read for anybody from the locker room to the board room.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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