George McCrossin, former Athletic Director and men’s basketball and golf coach for 35 years, died Saturday, Jan. 23, in Clearwater. McCrossin, 85, retired in 1987 after 35 years at the college.
McCrossin joined the St. Petersburg Junior College staff in 1952 as men’s basketball coach. During most of his coaching years, SPJC offered no athletic scholarships. In spite of that, McCrossin compiled a 539-369 record, making him the 14th winningest junior college coach ever at the time of his retirement.
As a golf coach, his achievements were even more remarkable; he earned national championships in 1968 and 1969, runners-up in 1967 and 1970, and his program produced nine All-Americans. He was named National Junior College Coach of the Year in 1969. He retired in 1987 at the age of 67.
At the Bay Area’s 1986 Sports Salute banquet, he was named Sports Personality of the Year. He was inducted into the Florida Community College Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Florida Community College Activities Association Hall of Fame in 1995.
McCrossin played basketball and was team captain at the University of Pittsburgh in the late 1940s and early 1950s after serving as a Marine in the South Pacific during World War II.
“He was a heck of a player,” Ed Long, who succeeded McCrossin as SPJC Athletic Director, said in a 2006 interview. “He was an All-American at Pitt, got a pro tryout, and I understand he was the last player to be cut by the Boston Celtics.’’
McCrossin said in 2006 that he remembered his players with fondness.
“We just had a great group of kids,” he said. “For what they had, they got everything out of it. They were dedicated. And they enjoyed the challenge.”
In a 2006 story in SPC Today, the college’s semi-annual alumni magazine, a number of those former players remembered their one-time coach:
“When I played, Coach McCrossin was bringing a lot of African-American guys here, including me, and I remember he was a really even-keel guy. He showed a lot of fairness. He was a strategist as a coach. I didn’t consider myself a prize-winning player, but I learned a lot, and as a team we did really well. I applied what he taught me and it worked out very well.” — Terry Byrd, St. Petersburg, center, 1967-68 and 1968-69.
“Back then, in order to get enough games, we played in the city A-league. When we played those games, Coach McCrossin would also play – point guard.” — Ed Evans, Clearwater, guard/forward, 1957-58 and 1958-59.
“He would keep fit by going through the same routine as we did. He taught us to juggle – tennis balls, basically, then other things – to improve our hand-eye coordination: That’s a talent I still possess. And I juggle things in life.” — Lars Hafner, St. Petersburg, guard/forward, co-captain, 1979-80 and 1980-81.
Graveside services were scheduled for Jan. 29 at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park, Clearwater.