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Longtime John Marshall coach Frank Threatts Jr., 78, dies

1/23/2015, 11:53 a.m.
Though he stood just 5-foot-5, Frank Threatts Jr. cast a powerful shadow over area high school basketball for the better ...

Though he stood just 5-foot-5, Frank Threatts Jr. cast a powerful shadow over area high school basketball for the better part of a half century.

Mr. Threatts, who accumulated 559 coaching victories between 1962 and 2010, died Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, at age 78 following a period of declining health.

A graduate of Richmond’s Maggie L. Walker High School and Norfolk State University, Mr. Threatts began his high school coaching career at St. Emma Military Academy in Powhatan, a military academy for African-American men that is now closed.

Competing in the Virginia Catholic League, Mr. Threatts’ teams were 114-107 from 1962 to 1970.

From rural St. Emma, Mr. Threatts went to John Marshall High School in 1970-71, where he was the North Side school’s first African-American coach. He succeeded Bill Chambers, who resigned at John Marshall to become an assistant coach under Chuck Noe at Virginia Commonwealth University.

At the same time, Mr. Chambers’ assistant, Warren Carter, left John Marshall to become head coach at Douglas Freeman High School in Henrico County.

Had Mr. Chambers and/or Mr. Carter remained at John Marshall High, the course of history may have been dramati- cally altered regarding Mr. Threatts’ coaching career.

Mr. Threatts had three separate successful stints directing the Justices.

He was 105-91 between 1970 and 1979, 240-109 from 1986 to 2000, and 100-35 from 2005 to 2010.

When the Richmond school system consolidated John Marshall and Maggie Walker High schools, Mr. Threatts served as lead assistant coach under Pierce Callaham for the Marshall-Walker Cavaliers from 1981 to 1985. The team won state Group AAA titles in 1982 and 1983.

The closest Mr. Threatts came to winning a state title as head coach was in 1993, when the Justices lost 77-71 in the finals to Hampton’s Bethel High School team, which was led by Allen Iverson.

Mr. Threatts’ John Marshall squads reached the state semi- finals on four occasions.

Mr. Threatts was a creative game planner, in terms of Xs and Os, and a strict disciplinarian.

Warren Peebles, a standout guard from 1985 to 1989, tells this story:

“Coach wouldn’t tolerate much foolishness. My senior year, one of our best players missed a practice. Everyone was asking Coach Threatts to let him play the next night in the district tournament. But coach sat him out, we lost and that was the end of the season.”

Mr. Peebles, who later starred at Virginia Union University, added this: “He was a players coach, and he will surely be missed.”

Among those coaching against Mr. Threatts in 1970s was Dave Robbins at Richmond’s Thomas Jefferson High School.

“Frank was an excellent coach who always had his teams well prepared,” said Mr. Robbins.

In 1975, Robbins’ Vikings won the state title, but not before getting beat by John Marshall in the district finals.

Another rival coach was George Lancaster, first at Richmond’s Huguenot High School and more recently at Highland Springs High School in Henrico County.

“Frank was a true student of the game,” said Mr. Lancaster. “He was a great theorist.”