UPDATE: Former Fontbonne Athlete Describes Basketball Coach Dr. Lee McKinney as Caring and Thoughtful Man

The longtime Clayton coach who served for years as the school's athletic director died Monday.

basketball coach Dr. Lee McKinney was a caring man who for years effectively adopted student athletes with his wife, a former student athlete said.

"He was genuinely interested in what was going on with your life," said Maria Eftink, the school's athletic director. She played basketball and volleyball at the school during the time McKinney served as coach and saw him frequently because the men's and women's basketball teams traveled together.

McKinney, who had cancer, died Monday morning at his home in Florissant, athletic news director Brian Hoener said. He was surrounded by his wife, June; his two sons, Dennis and Dino; and his daughter, Dena. He had five grandchildren.

A wake is planned Friday, and a funeral service is planned Saturday, Eftink said. , she said.

McKinney's door was always open, Eftink said. He knew student athletes by name, joked around with them and attended numerous athletic events. Former athletes returned to visit him, and he attended the weddings of numerous students with whom he had worked. He also kept in touch with numerous parents.

During his tenure as  athletic director, he expanded the school's sports offerings from three to 20.

McKinney was "the grandfather of Fontbonne athletics," Eftink said.

She said she does not think there is a St. Louis-area funeral home large enough to hold the people who will turn out later this week honor his life.

McKinney served for 24 season as the team's head coach and attained 800 career wins in February 2010, a news release issued by the school states. He was the school's director of athletics for 23 years. He had been receiving treatment for cancer.

“The Fontbonne family and entire basketball community has lost one of its true leaders and a loyal friend,” Eftink stated in the release. “Coach McKinney served as a role model, mentor and father figure to so many student-athletes and countless more coaches and athletic administrators, including myself. His contributions to the Fontbonne athletic department, basketball and cancer research will never be forgotten. Our prayers are with the entire McKinney family.”

, McKinney's son Dennis told Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch about his father's influence in the Clayton community.

"Dad saw Fontbonne needed to find places to play when he first started, so he got in touch with people in Clayton," Dennis McKinney said. "The university and the town formed a mutually beneficial relationship, and Dad got the use of venues at and as well (as) various baseball fields."

Hoener, the athletic news director at Fontbonne, is a graduate of the school. As athletic director, McKinney named Hoener, then 24, to lead the men's soccer team. Hoener had played soccer as a student.

"He always tried to find the best in people," Hoener said. McKinney died at his home in Florissant surrounded by his wife; his two sons, Dennis and Dino; and his daughter, Dena. He had five grandchildren.

McKinney built the athletic program not only by adding new sports but also by hiring coaches and recruiting athletes.

"He was just a good, genuine guy," Hoener said. As a boss, he trusted his employees to make the right decisions, and he wanted to enjoy his time at work. He was "always laughing and telling stories and joking," Hoener said. He served as a mentor and took interest in helping those around him in their personal and professional development.

"He enjoyed his life," Hoener said.

James Baer (Editor) April 04, 2011 at 05:42 PM
That is the saddest thing I've heard in a long time. I personally covered Coach McKinney on many occasions and he was the best. He was caring and compassionate. The sports world and th community have lost a great leader.
Nate Birt (Editor) April 04, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Jim. I'm confident we're going to hear more stories like yours as we continue to speak with people.
Lonnie Folks April 04, 2011 at 09:04 PM
I'm saddened to hear of the loss of Coach McKinney. I'm sure that I'm among a large group that will speak of the length of time that they've known Coach and appreciated what he's accomplished which has been an awful lot. I was still a student-athlete at Maryville University and he was coaching at Missouri Baptist when we first met. I was later fortunate to work alongside him as we were both athletic administrators in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He was always passionate about what he did and the opportunities that he'd offer student-athletes can be well defined when you consider the number who got their coaching or administrative careers starting by working for him. Rest in peace Coach after a life well lived.
Brian Doolittle April 04, 2011 at 11:33 PM
I heard about this earlier today via a posting from Earl Austin Jr. I covered the SLIAC, and Fontbonne, for five years and Lee was very accessible and accommodating. His family has a lot to be proud of ... he made a huge local impact.


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