Former UTC men’s basketball coach Henry Dickerson dies at 71

Staff file photo / Henry Dickerson shouts out instructions as he coaches the UTC men's basketball team during a home game. Dickerson, a Mocs assistant for eight seasons under Mack McCarthy and the team's head coach for five years, died Thursday night at age 71.

For all he contributed to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball program as a coach, the difference Henry Dickerson made clearly went beyond the court.

As those who knew him from his time with the Mocs reflect on Dickerson, their words make clear his character as a man had quite the impact as well.

Dickerson died Thursday night at age 71, according to a UTC release issued Friday. The Times Free Press previously reported that a broken hip in the spring of 2022 was followed by complications in the heart and lungs that led to Dickerson being placed on a ventilator.

A native of Beckley, West Virginia, he came to Chattanooga in 1989 to join Mack McCarthy's staff, serving as associate head coach for the UTC Athletics Hall of Famer for eight seasons and helping build the team that would defeat Georgia and Illinois on its way to a Sweet 16 appearance as a No. 14 seed in the 1997 NCAA tournament.

When McCarthy left for East Carolina after that season, Dickerson was promoted, becoming the first Black head coach in program history and leading the Mocs to a pair of Southern Conference South Division championships in 1998 and 2002 during his five-year tenure.

He was also a standout player. Dickerson averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds per game during his four-year career at the University of Charleston from 1969-73, an NAIA program at the time, and is the only player in the history of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to be selected to its all-conference and all-tournament teams for four consecutive seasons.

He played parts of two seasons in the NBA, one each with the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks, and spent some time with the Syracuse Centennials, averaging 27.1 points for the Eastern Basketball Association team.

Chattanooga native Johnny Taylor was the 1997 SoCon player of the year for the Mocs before being selected by the Orlando Magic in the first round of the NBA draft that year, and he never forgot Dickerson.

"Henry is super special to me because he came and found me when no one else was looking for me, so without Coach Dickerson, Johnny Taylor probably wouldn't have jumped on the map," Taylor said in UTC's release. "He was a very good recruiter and had an eye for talent. I mean, he could spot talent anywhere and he was an integral part of UTC's legacy. I recall him being there for me at a critical point when things were going on with my family, he was right there, and he held on to our forever secret. You could trust him, go to him with issues and feel safe with him.

"My heart is broken into pieces that he's going to get his flowers. He will forever be remembered in my heart and in the lives of my family."

McCarthy called Dickerson a huge part of the "incredible success of Chattanooga Mocs basketball."

"The players he recruited and coached were responsible for some of the greatest accomplishments in UTC history," McCarthy said in the release. "Henry had a positive impact on every program with which he was involved. In the highly competitive and sometimes contentious business of college athletics, he had no enemies. An incredible friend, everyone liked and respected Henry.

"Henry Dickerson was a great coach, and he was an even better man."

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