Life Stories

Life Stories: Ex-St. Aug's athletic director shared his inspiration with many

CorrespondentJuly 6, 2014 


Harvey Heartley dreamed of playing for N.C. State but he attended N.C. Central and later became a successful coach and athletic director at St. Augustine's. 2005 NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO


  • Harvey Delafone Heartley Sr.

    Born: Oct. 22, 1934

    Family: Born the oldest of three boys, he is raised in Clayton. Is married to Anna Heartley for 26 years and they have three children, Delphyne, Harvey Jr. and Shawn. They divorce in 1980, and he marries Maria Heartley in 1981, becoming stepfather to her son, Gregory.

    Education: He graduates from Johnston County Training School in Smithfield, and attends North Carolina Central from 1951 to 1955 where he plays basketball, also earning a B.S. in biology. He goes on to earn an M.S. in physical education from North Carolina Central in 1955, as well as an A.B.D. (all-but-dissertation) from NCSU in 1965.

    Career: Coaching career begins at Buckland High School in Gates County, and continues with a move to Cooper High School in Clayton in 1956, transitioning to Ligon High School in Raleigh through 1968. He is appointed state youth coordinator of sports, but soon accepts a job at St. Augustine’s College. From 1971 to 1996 he is head men’s basketball coach, athletic director, an associate professor, and coach of other sports such as fencing, golf and tennis. Also authors two books: “A Book For All Families” and “The Oral History of the N.C. High School Athletic Conference.”

    Accolades: He was inducted into the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), NCCU, Johnston County and Saint Augustine’s University Basketball halls of fame, and was CIAA Coach of the Year, CIAA Athletic Director of the Year four times and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District 26 Coach of the Year.

    Dies: June 23

— Whenever Harvey Heartley heard something inspirational, or came across a line in a book that spoke to him, he wrote it down on the back of a business card and stuck it to the walls of his office. As athletics director at St. Augustine’s University, students visited him regularly, and all they had to do was look around to find inspiration.

George Williams, an old friend and current St. Augustine’s athletic director, chuckled recalling one of his faves: “If you’re not in the huddle, you don’t know the play.”

Heartley, 79, died last month after a yearslong battle with cancer. At 6-foot-4, he was known as an outstanding shooter on the basketball court. An All-American college player at North Carolina Central in the 1950s, he was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers.

But his legacy mostly resides on the sidelines. He spent decades coaching and serving as the athletics director at the division II university. Through his efforts, St. Augstine’s became NCAA-eligible. When he first came to the school it had only three sports – 13 were needed to join the national association. Heartley understood the value sports could add to anyone’s life, regardless of talent or athletic potential.

“Most administrators don’t get too caught up in athletics, and Heartley had to teach them that athletics is a social event and a social outlet for the academics,” Williams said.

And yet, as Heartley focused on strengthening the school’s athletics, he spent equal effort promoting the school’s academics.

“He believed in the academics. He believed that if you came to St. Aug’s, we’re not going to exploit you as an athlete. We’re going to get you a degree,” Williams said.

Taking interest in all

Heartley was raised in Clayton, the oldest of three boys, whose parents were teachers. One of his brothers also played college basketball at NCSU. As a source of inspiration, Heartley pointed to his coach at Johnston County Training School in Smithfield, where his parents worked. The coach, World War II veteran Reginald “Hawk” Ennisa, inspired both love and fear at the segregated high school.

His entire playing career took place during segregation. He sometimes spoke about the joy of playing clandestine integrated pickup games with players from Smithfield and Garner.

After college, Heartley considered playing professionally. But his path steered toward coaching after graduation, and he never looked back.

First working in area high schools where he often brought teams to championships, he was noticed by the staff at St. Augustine’s College, as it was then called, probably while some of his players were being recruited.

After experiencing the integration of the public schools, he spent a year working for Gov. Dan K. Moore as youth coordinator of sports. In 1971, when St. Augustine’s came knocking with a position as athletic director and men’s basketball coach, he readily accepted.

In addition to coaching, teaching and administrating, Heartley also focused much of his energy on his community.

“He took interest in everybody, whether they were athletes or not,” said Harvey Heartley Jr. “Everybody that he could help, he helped.”

Heartley arranged for St. Augustine’s facilities to be used for summer sports camps, often giving underprivileged children the chance to develop their talents rather than languishing without direction between school years.

One child, a boy who cut through campus on his walk to the Boys’ Club, peeked into the gym and won an invitation from Heartley to come to camp the following week – free. That child, LeVelle Moton, is now the men’s basketball coach at NCCU. He still has the Magic Johnson poster Heartley gave him decades ago.

Williams said Heartley took particular interest in keeping students on track.

“He took some kids out of some very disadvantaged situations and he became (like) a father to them,” Williams said.

‘He was my best friend’

When it came time for Heartley’s son to choose where to play ball, Heartley Jr. had a tough decision to make. The honors student had been a star at Broughton High School on its championship team, and was also president of his class.

“Coming out of high school I had a lot of options, like Duke, Harvard, Yale ... but I wanted to play for my daddy because I had been following him my whole life,” he said.

So he did. “He was my best friend.”

Williams would like to have the basketball courts at St. Augustine’s named for Heartley. He only wishes he had done it sooner so his friend could see just how appreciated he was.

“He just made Saint Aug glow,” Williams said.

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