WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Rosco Turner, the boys basketball coach at Parkland High School, died yesterday (Wednesday) morning at the age of 48. News of his death hit home early, starting with a phone call to Parkland’s main office, Principal Tim Lee said. It spread quickly throughout Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools by phone, e-mail and text message.
“I don’t know anybody in our line of work who didn’t like Rosco,” said Mike Pennington, a coach at West Forsyth High School and Turner’s predecessor at Parkland. “He was a good guy and good basketball coach, too. I am sure his family is crushed, and I am sure his basketball team is crushed, too. My prayers go out to him and his family.”
Gene Malloy, one of Turner’s close friends, said he thought that Turner had a heart attack at his home in Lexington.
Lee said he had few details.
“He was a great person,” Lee said. “He and I go back 20, 25 years, and I have a great respect for him personally and professionally.”
Turner was in his fourth year at Parkland and also was the administrator of the in-school-suspension and alternative-learning programs.
He previously was a teacher and head basketball coach at North Davidson, East Forsyth and Lexington high schools, and an assistant coach and teacher at Reynolds High School. He started his career in the Asheboro City Schools.
Turner was fun-loving, smart and easy to talk to, but his teams were known for their blue-collar work ethic and tough defense. He guided East Forsyth and Lexington to two conference championships each during four-year stints at the schools, and Pennington said that Turner was on the verge of fielding his best team at Parkland.
Coach Howard West of Reagan had Turner as an assistant at Reynolds for one season in the late 1990s and recalled it as a fun season.
“A lot of people didn’t realize how intelligent Rosco was,” West said. “I think he taught computer applications. We went to clinics together, and he could talk about any subject you wanted to talk about. And being from the North, he had some different perspectives on things.
“He loved kids, loved basketball. He had enthusiasm for the game. My heart goes out to Nedra (Turner’s wife) and Rosco (Jr.). They have a great family, and I know the Parkland community will be sad because those kids played hard for Rosco.”
Turner was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. He moved to the Pinehurst area with his family before his junior year of high school and graduated from Southern Pines. He went on to play basketball at Pfeiffer, where he was an all-conference guard and academic All-America.
Turner landed a teaching job in Asheboro in 1985 and left in 1988 for North Davidson. He became the boys basketball coach at North Davidson in 1992 and coached there seven seasons before joining West at Reynolds in ’98. From there, he coached four years each at East Forsyth and Lexington, then was hired to replace Pennington at Parkland in 2007.
Many coaches talk about doing things to help students, but colleagues said that Turner truly made the effort.
“The last time I saw him was at a coaching meeting out at West Forsyth, and we sat down for a few minutes, and he wanted to talk about a couple of situations with his kids and doing stuff with their academics and getting them in school,” West said. “He was just asking about anything to help a kid.”
Malloy, who teaches at Carter High School, said he coached with and worked summer camps with Turner for years. Malloy learned of Turner’s death on his drive to work, and said he had to pull over and cry.
“It was like I lost somebody close to my heart that would be with me forever,” Malloy said. “There wasn’t anything in our lives that we didn’t talk about. He was just a great guy, and I am going to miss him.
“He never saw a kid he didn’t like. He loved every single kid he was involved with. I have seen kids that couldn’t play a lick, and Rosco would keep them around. And usually, if you hung around him long enough, you turned out to be a pretty decent player.”
Tom Childress, now a senior vice president at Catawba College and Turner’s old basketball coach at Pfeiffer, said he was devastated by the news. Childress recalled a road trip to Florida for several games in the early 1980s. On the final night, Childress said, Turner had what might have been the best game of his career.
The team quickly boarded vans afterward to start the drive home, leaving Turner complaining to Childress that no one was talking about his play.
“So about midnight, we had been traveling for several hours in two vans, we made a stop,” Childress said. “And a couple of players came up and said, ‘Coach, can you take Rosco on your van? He’s talking our heads off about his game.’
“I can’t help but laugh and smile and remember him that way. He never changed. I am sure the fellows that played for him in high school felt that enthusiasm and passion for life in general.
“He was lit up all the time. He was full throttle, and he was fun to be with. And I hate to say that word — was.”