Bill Yoast and Herman Boone. Free use photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The sports world was turned upside down when it was announced that the legend Herman Boone, the Alexandria, VA high school football coach that inspired the movie “Remember the Titans,” passed away at the age of 84 at his home on December 18, 2019.

What makes this story that much more amazing is that he won the state championship the same year Alexandria’s school system decided to merge three diverse high schools into one. There were many battles, fights, and prejudices that had to be addressed to make this season one to remember.

As of today, TC Williams HS is still the only public high school in Alexandria, VA.

Against all odds, Coach Boone, in his first season as head coach, won the state championship in 1971, while navigating the slippery slope of racism and desegregation at TC Williams.

Bigger than a Hollywood Feel-Good

This story was so great, HOLLYWOOD came calling. In 2000, Coach Boone’s life would change forever when the movie “Remember the Titans” was released in theaters all over the world. Coach Boone, played by Oscar winner Denzel Washington, not only showed us how sports can turn individuals from all races into family members but it also showed us how sports can unite a community.

Coach Boone and his team won that championship in 1971, but it wasn’t easy. They had to face 15 white teams that called them every name in the book, along with racist coaches, fans, and referees that tried to cheat and disrespect them at every turn along the way.

Walking through the hallways of TC Williams High School today and looking into that sports showcase brings you nothing but pride and joy.

Carrying the Torch

The tradition continues under second year AD James Parker. In his first season, he managed to change the culture immediately. Parker hired two heavyweights for the boys and girls basketball program. WVU Hall of Famer Darryl Prue was brought in to coach up the boys. Meanwhile, UCLA’s all time leader in three pointers, the 5th overall pick in the 2006 WNBA draft, and USA Gold Medalist, now NBA assistant coach Lisa Willis worked with the girls for one season.

In Parker’s second year, the field hockey, cheerleading, and volleyball teams won their district championships. Their football team lost in the district championship game but still made the playoffs. They went into the playoffs and won their first regional game in 30 years. The Titans eventually lost in the semifinals to the team who ended up winning the state championship.

AD James Parker said, “It’s an exciting time for TC athletics. There are a lot of new initiatives and programs being put in place to make us the gold standard of high school athletics. We want to run a first class organization that our current and former athletes can be proud of.” Parker then stated, “Coach Boone is an icon in our community. He represents the standard that we want all of our athletes and coaches to live up to. He did it the right way; he did it the Titan way.”

Prue and Willis

Washington DC’s own Darryl Prue played at West Virginia University. He was just enshrined into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2019. Prue was also an assistant coach at Georgetown University, as well as 2 years at Morgan State. While there, they beat the University of Maryland during the regular season. They went on to appear in the NIT, where they lost to Va Tech. The next year, they appeared in the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Blake Griffin’s Oklahoma Sooners.

Arriving at TC Williams, Prue took over for a team that won only 4 games before his arrival. He promptly led that squad to the regional semifinals in his first season as head coach. This season, he has his team off to a blazing 6-2 start heading into the meat of his season.

Coach Prue stated, “TC had a tradition of winning but lost it the last few years. Everyone wants to be a part of it, but unfortunately tradition means hard work along with talent. The mindset I bring is about winning but preparing the boys for life after they leave TC, whether it is playing in college or not.”

Lisa Willis came in and won the conference championship in her first and only season at TC Williams. She then left to become the first women’s coach in New York Knicks franchise history. Willis has already made her mark in the NBA and NBA G-League. She brings a high basketball IQ and calmness to guys that walk around full of testosterone.

Lisa has been interviewed by Bleacher Report, Fox5 News NY, The Painted Lines, The Washington Informer, Pix11 News, and many others.

A New Titan

Her departure left a big hole in the program. AD James Parker had to go back into his bag of tricks. He then hired Marcus McKinney to take over the girls basketball program.

An Arlington, VA native, Coach McKinney knows about the Titan tradition. “When I learned that I would be given the opportunity to lead the TC Williams girls basketball program, I was extremely honored. The city of Alexandria and the entire country should be grateful for Coach Boone’s message of peace and love. I love his philosophy: ‘I don’t scratch my head unless it itches, and I don’t dance unless I hear some music. I will not be intimidated.’ That’s just the way it is.”

Per the U.S. News and World Report, as of 2019, TC Williams High School’s student body is 41% Hispanic, 32% Black, 21% White, 5% Asian, 0.3% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 2% Multi-racial.

The Ultimate Titan

Coach Boone never moved from Alexandria, VA after his coaching career was over. He was an iconic figure in the community. He often stopped by the school over the years giving inspirational speeches, words of encouragement, and great stories from his coaching days.

Coach Boone’s rules on the field and life: Respect, integrity, and teamwork. The markings of a Titan.

You will be missed but NEVER FORGOTTEN. Job well done. May you now rest in paradise!