RALEIGH — 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. Augustines 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. Augustines athletic director, chuckled recalling one of his faves: If youre not in the huddle, you dont 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. Augstines 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 anyones life, regardless of talent or athletic potential.
Most administrators dont 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 schools athletics, he spent equal effort promoting the schools academics.
He believed in the academics. He believed that if you came to St. Augs, were not going to exploit you as an athlete. Were 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. Augustines 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. Augustines came knocking with a position as athletic director and mens 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. Augustines 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 mens 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 Heartleys 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. Augustines 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.