Hoop dreams

February 24, 2022 — Darrell Scott ’87 never dreamed that he’d be a basketball coach. The Gary, Indiana, native played ball at Grinnell College, but armed with a chemistry degree and a desire to teach, he figured his hoops days were behind him. 

After graduating he worked for a suburban Chicago chemical company and played recreation basketball, but soon “my knees couldn’t take it anymore,” he admits. 

Scott volunteered as a men’s assistant coach at a nearby community college, South Suburban in South Holland, Illinois. “I hadn’t coached before, but I needed to fill that competitive drive and since I couldn’t play, the only way to do it was coaching,” he says. Two years later, in 1992, the school’s women’s coach retired.

Darrell Scott ’87
  Darrell Scott ’87

“I interviewed for the job and was lucky enough to get it,” he says. “I had no aspirations of coaching women, but it was a head coaching job that came open and I wanted to be a head coach.”

In 2020, he retired after 28 seasons from the only head coaching job he’s ever held. That same year, he was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He brought six women’s teams to the national tournament, coached 12 NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) All-Americans, was inducted into the NJCAA Region IV Hall of Fame in 2016, and reached a milestone 500th win in 2018.

What he loved most about coaching was the players. “Bringing in kids when people questioned their drive, commitment and their dedication to the game and getting these young ladies to buy into a system and a team was incredibly rewarding,” he says. “And I enjoyed seeing them go on with their lives and the successes they’ve had.”

Taking them to the NJCAA tournament six times was also a highlight. 

“Most of the teams were made up of players from the inner-city,” he says. “At the national tournament, people asked for their autographs, watched them practice, and the media wanted to interview them. It was really nice to see them mature as individuals and athletes.”

Coaching wasn’t Scott’s only job, however. From 2000-2017, Scott taught science at a South Side Catholic Elementary/Middle School in Chicago. 

Darrell Scott ‘87, center, is joined by his mother-in-law Barbara Townsend, left, and his wife, Kimberly Townsend-Scott ’88 at a family dinner.
Darrell Scott ’87, center, is joined by his mother-in-law Barbara Townsend, left, and his wife, Kimberly Townsend-Scott ’88 at a family dinner. 

“Coaching and teaching are two different worlds but really the same thing,” Scott says, enthusiastically. “In the classroom you’ve got kids that you have to get to believe that science is important to them. On the court, I need my teams to believe that the plays I’m teaching will work.”

Scott fell in love with the game early. He started playing organized ball at age 9 and hit 6 feet, 1 inch in middle school. At Gary’s Roosevelt High School, he was a center until the other kids caught up height-wise, at which point he moved to power forward.

A couple of high school teammates had gone to Grinnell, and though he’d been recruited by a Division I and several Division II schools, Scott wanted a school where his life wouldn’t revolve around sports. 

He enjoyed taking classes with all his science professors, but it was professor emeritus Luther Erickson “who made me love chemistry,” Scott says. And he credits his tutorial professor Elizabeth Dobbs with teaching him to write and work harder than he ever had before. “She gave me what I needed, and I’ll always remember her.”

He met Kimberly (Townsend) Scott ’88 when she visited as a prospective student with her parents, and the two hit it off. They were together throughout college and Kimberly, a physician, and Darrell married in 1989 and have three sons. 

After retiring as South Suburban’s coach, Scott’s taken on a new role: dean of students at Block Middle School, in East Chicago, Indiana. “I have 500, 12- to 14-year-olds and I’m the disciplinarian. I’m the guy that tries to get them to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. I love it, and I think the kids enjoy me, too.”

In this first full season without coaching, Scott admits he misses the competition. 

“I miss putting kids together to form a team, but I don’t miss the 6 a.m. practices or road trips,” he says. “You’re in a van on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve driving to tournaments. My wife wants us to travel, and I couldn’t in the past because I had a game, clinic or AAU. Our vacations always revolved around basketball. Now it’s time to give other people a chance to coach and spend more time with my family.”

— by Anne Stein ’84

For your information:

This year’s Grinnell College men’s basketball team won 10 games in a row during January and February. Follow along on team’s webpage as they prepare for the Midwest Conference Tournament.

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