Catawba College Alumnus Cy Alexander ’75 admits that he has a little less hair and weighs a little more than he did when he played basketball for the Indians three decades ago. But this player turned collegiate coach has not lost his passion for his alma mater or the memories of the life lessons he learned on Catawba’s campus.
Alexander, in his second year as the head basketball coach at Tennessee State University in Nashville, has established the Cy Alexander Basketball Scholarship at Catawba as a way to give back and help future generations of student athletes. The scholarship will be awarded to a deserving student athlete who is a member of Catawba’s men’s basketball team, in good academic standing, of good character and morals, and who is not attending the institution on a full athletic scholarship.
“I hope this small token of appreciation will help enrich another student athlete’s life, helping him gain an education and move toward other endeavors in adulthood,” Alexander said. He retains fond memories of his college teammates and gratitude for the influence the Catawba College community had on his life. He says Coach Sam Moir and Dean of Students Bill Hall helped shape him and the decisions he made about his future, as did Drs. Dan Brown and Ken Sells.
Catawba College Senior Vice President expressed appreciation to Alexander for his scholarship gift and for leading by example. “Cy is a terrific guy and we’re especially proud of his career,” said Childress. “He took his love of the game and his sociology degree from Catawba and found a place in the world where his passion could translate into a strong influence on the lives of new generations of student athletes.”
Alexander grew up in Winston-Salem, the only child of Mrs. Margaret Vaughn Alexander and the late Cyrus Walker Alexander II. Both of his parents were teachers and instilled in their son the importance of an education. “ ‘You don’t go to college to be a pro,’ they told me, ‘but athletics can be a byproduct of that education, and academics and athletics can co-exist,” Alexander remembered.
Following his Catawba graduation, Alexander earned his master’s degree in student personnel administration and counseling from Howard University. He served as assistant basketball coach at Howard University for 11 years, from 1976 through 1987, before taking a job as the head basketball coach at South Carolina State University. He coached at SCSU for 16 years, from 1987 to 2003 and had, what he described as “a pretty good run,” advancing to five NCAA tournaments, six Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) regular season championships and five MEAC regional tournaments and championships. During 13 of his 16 years there, his team finished in either first or second place in the conference.
Two years ago, he accepted his current job at Tennessee State and although his team only won seven games last season in the Ohio Valley Conference, he noted that he had had “two good recruiting years.” “It’s going to take a lot of hard work in this program, but I’m up for the challenge,” he said.
In 1998, American Sportswire named Alexander its National Coach of the Year, and while he was at South Carolina State, he was named MEAC Coach of the Year three times. He was inducted into Catawba’s Hall of Fame in 2000.
Alexander is married to wife Cecelia and the couple has an adult daughter, Joi.