In hindsight, former Wildcats player Stanley Barnwell said he figures his coach, Richard Madden, was a lot smarter than a group of 17- and 18-year-old young men wanted to give him credit for being.
“I remember as a senior, there were a couple of guys on the team sneaking cigarettes,” said Barnwell, who played under Madden from 1968-71.
“He just kind of told us that if he had to smoke he’d rather have cigars than cigarettes. Well, he occasionally smoked one, so we snuck into his office and thought it would be pretty good to smoke a cigar.
“We smoked that cigar and got sick. It’s one of the reasons I still don’t smoke today. He was probably smarter than we gave him credit for.”
Madden spent 18 years coaching at White Plains and another 13 serving as a basketball official in the area.
His teams at White Plains were known for being able to “hang with the big boys” of Calhoun County despite always being — at the time — the smallest school.
Barnwell said he and his contemporaries always called Madden “Coach.”
“It was never Mr. Madden or coach Madden — just Coach,” Barnwell said.
Madden took over the White Plains program during the 1958-59 school season and retired after the 1976 year.
This past November, White Plains honored Madden, whose teams were 338-151 overall, by naming the court after him. Madden’s teams had seven 20-win seasons and only had losing seasons twice.
He has been selected as one of six inductees into the 2010 class of the Calhoun County Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is Saturday.
“It’s great,” Madden said. “When I look at who I’m being inducted with, I’m really honored. It’s really a great lineup.”
This upcoming basketball season, White Plains fans will be able to take in the honors bestowed on Madden. The gym floor will be completely redone and will include a pair of three-foot logos with Madden’s name.
Asked to talk about some of the highlights of his 18-year career coaching at White Plains — it was the only school he coached — Madden said there were far too many to talk about.
“We had so many ups,” he said. “I enjoyed every year. It was a real pleasure coaching at White Plains.
“The community was so great, the support was so great. I never regretted one moment that my entire coaching career was at White Plains.”
Under Madden, the Wildcats won area titles in 1964, 1974 and 1976. White Plains was the smallest school in the county during Madden’s tenure, yet his 1962-63 team had three wins each against Jacksonville and Saks — finishing third in the county tournament — and his 1973-74 team made it to the Class 1A state semifinals and was county runner-up.
“I will always give the credit to the really hard work on the young men’s part that I coached to be able to compete with the bigger schools we always had on our schedule,” Madden said. “Their will to win, or maybe it was their desire not to lose, had a lot to do with it.”
Even now, Madden still can be found in and around the White Plains basketball program, said current coach Chris Randall.
“He’s been great to us,” Randall said. “He’s just real encouraging. There aren’t a whole lot of people that understand what you go through as a coach except other coaches. He’s been a great ear to run things by, someone to lean on. He’s been a great friend and mentor to hang in there during the tough times.”
The Wildcats have had good success during Randall’s tenure, and Madden has been around to be a part of it. He’s always welcome in the team locker room and at games.
“He sees it not just from a fan perspective,” Randall said. “It’s great when you win a big game and he comes down to the locker room after the game. That huddle and that locker room are special places, just you and the boys — not the crowd or the parents — just you and the boys. It’s special for a coach. He’s got full access.
“He loves to come into the locker room after a win to celebrate, to talk to the players, to tell them how proud of them he is.”
After his coaching career finished, Madden served as a longtime official, piling up plenty of stories with that, as well.
Madden recalled an outing with well-known referee Perry Canada at Fort McClellan.
“They about ran us to death in the first 10 minutes,” Madden said. “I was hustling up the floor and heard a whistle back at the free throw line extended. I went back to Perry and said, ‘What you got?’
“He said, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll think of something. I had to slow those guys down.’”
Randall said he was more familiar with Madden as an official, but got to know him as a coach after taking over at White Plains. He said that one of his favorite things during the past few years has been watching Madden’s interactions with his former players.
“When they come back and talk to him, seeing his eyes light up and the joy he got spending time with the former players, it was great,” Randall said. “You talk to former players and they get misty-eyed talking about how much he meant to them, telling stories.”
Barnwell recalled that Madden owned a green 1964 Rambler and they called it the “White Plains Taxi” because Madden would drive all over White Plains, Choccolocco and Nances Creek picking up and dropping off his players.
“He took me home many a day when I didn’t have a ride,” Barnwell said.
More important than that, Barnwell said, was how Madden was always encouraging players.
“He’s had a lot of health problems in the past few years, but he’s never been a complainer,” Barnwell said. “He always takes time to listen. He’s not one to talk about himself. He always wants to know how you and your family are doing.
“I’m looking forward to Saturday night. He’s just a guy you can depend on. If he tells you something, you can bank on it being exactly that way.”
Just stay away from those cigars, though.