When Dale Ellis was on the court at Thompson-Boling Arena last March to see his jersey raised to the rafters, he got cut off without finishing what he had to say. There was a game to tip off.
“I’d wake up every morning for about two months after that, and think about what I could have said, who I could have acknowledged,” Ellis said Wednesday in Greeneville, where he and ex-Vols Reggie Johnson, Damon Johnson and Skylar McBee were working a clinic for the Boys and Girls Club.
So I gave Ellis a chance to finish his acknowledgements. One of the first people he mentioned was Ed Balloff, the friend of the program who was buried Tuesday at age 94.
Another was Dr. Robert Overholt. Said Ellis, “I’ve had an opportunity to travel the world through the game of basketball. That’s always been my life’s dream. I met a lot of beautiful people. None were more beautiful than Dr. Robert Overholt. I grew up without a father and I always looked at him as somewhat of a father figure to me.”
And Don DeVoe, his coach.
“He prepared me for that next level,” Ellis said. “It wasn’t like you could take a day off with Don. If you scored 30 points last night, he wanted to know what had tonight. It didn’t matter what you did on a test last week, he wanted to know what you’re gonna do this week in school. He was teaching me how to be a professional, off and on the floor.”
The UT fans: “You guys pushed me to come with it every single day. I want to thank you, too.”
Perhaps most of all, his Tennessee teammates.
Wednesday he mentioned Reggie Johnson, Michael Brooks, Gary Carter, Howard Wood and others. “I would take something from their game and I brought it to my game. It’s an individual honor. But that ’14’ — I took my twin brother’s number to honor him. We went to different schools. The ‘1979-83’ — that repesents my teammates. That’s a team honor.”