McKinley Armstrong Dies

The Greater Washington basketball community notes the loss of Coach McKinley Armstrong. Coach was a loving father and dedicated teacher. He attended North Carolina College in the era of Sam Jones and Ernie Warlick. Most Washingtonians remember Armstrong as pilot of the dominant McKinley Tech teams of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, including 1969’s “Magnificent Seven”. That championship team featured four starters who were named to the Washington Post and Washington Star’s first team All-Metropolitan rosters, which is likely unprecedented and unrepeated.

Some of Coach’s powerhouse teams are referenced in the interviews with both Kevin Tatum and Mickey Michaels at In one stretch culminating in their 1969 Interhigh championship victory, a Washington Post article from the time cites the Trainers as having won 34 consecutive public school opponents- a colossal achievement given the talent pool and hostile “away game” atmosphere of late 1960’s D.C. high school basketball. Armstrong’s outstanding players are too many to mention here, but included Ernest Lewis, Michael Sessoms, Kevin Tatum, Ronnie Hogue, “Apple” Milam, Michael Bossard, Tim Bassett, Jo Jo Hicks, “Nehru” Brown, Lonnie Perrin, Jeffrey Harrison, James Monroe, James Gorham, Xavier Yeoman, James Buckmon, Arthur Williams, “Cricket” Williams and “Zip” Evans.



37 responses to “McKinley Armstrong Dies

  1. Wini Clark Parker

    Coach Armstrong was a coach and a gentleman. We who were blessed to have known him have a void knowing he has passed on. (Tech Class of ’75)

    • We most certainly were, and I’m grateful to have known him. The family is doing well under the circumstances. They will have a viewing Sat. morning at 9 at St. Anthony’s, and Coach’s memorial service thereafter. Look for newspaper obits in the meantime (they hadn’t submitted it when I spoke to them).


  2. On behalf of the class of 1974, our hearts are heavy and are sadden at this time to hear of coach Armstrong’s passing We truly appreciate the time, love, concern, fathering and teaching he gave us and others. Family may you know it will not go amiss because we’ll continually carry coach Armstrong’s legacy and the Tech way throughout our lives.
    Class of 1974… keep your head to the sky!

  3. Coach Armstrong was a caring coach. In 1970- 1972 I attend a lot of games. Including Chamiponship games at Howard U, Georgetown, and many more. We ( Rita Brooks, my twin sister Deidra and myself traveled to different schools to see the games, Eastern, Ballou, and more. I was in the Class of 72′. Seeing Lonnie Parrin, Zip, Sherman Hughes, Jeffery Harrison and don’t forget Alfred West, Haywood Corley and many more.

  4. A large part of McKinley Tech and Washington DC history is now gone.

    My heart goes out to his family in this time. To all my alumni, lets start a foundation in his honor for students excelling in sports at Mckinley Tech.

  5. McKinley has lost a great coach/mentor/person. To all alumni, lets start a foundation in his honor for students excelling in sports at Tech.

  6. Coach Armstrong coached basketball during a period which I consider to be the “golden age” of basketball. My cousin and I will never forget, as junior high school kids, going to the M-Club to watch the great McKinley teams face DeMatha and Mackin. Few people realize that the 1969 team featured two players that were drafted into the NBA (Ronnie Hogue and Tim Bassett) and two players drafted into the NFL (James Buckmon and Lonnie Perrin). All-time greats Randolph “Apple” Milam, Mike Bossard and point guard Kevin Tatum starred on that 69 team, one that I will remember as the greatest high school team in DC’s illustrious basketball history. Coach Armstrong’s art work (championship banners) on the walls of McKinley’s old gym may be gone, but his legacy will always be in the memories of many.

  7. Well stated Rob. That “Magnificent Seven” team was something else, and by definition, went at least seven deep. Most of the members you named went on to play major college sports at schools such as Pitt, Illinois, and (integrated the basketball program at) Georgia. In facing and often defeating opponents who starred the likes of James Brown, Aubrey Nash, Michael Jackson, Howard “Earthworm” Matthews, and Glenn Price, who were All-Mets in their own right, Coach Armstrong doesn’t receive enough local or national credit as an outstanding scholastic skipper.


  8. I am deeply saddened by the loss of Mr. Mc Kinley Armstrong. I like my cousin who previously stated that we remember going to Mc Kinley games in the mid 60’s. The first high school game that I attended was at the M Cub at the Univ. Of MD. I was school zoned to attend Roosevelt High school but it was at that moment that as an seventh grader that I said that I wanted to go to Mc Kinley Tech. Yeah all the pretty girls was a good reason to go there but the main reason was to play for that team and be coached by Mr. Armstrong. I did attend Mc Kinley and was coached by Mr. Armstrong but due to the many fine athletes that tried out I was cut, but I truly valued all the time that I was with the team. It was indeed one of my favorite memories about high school. The games against De Matha, Eastern, St. Anthony, and Ballou Mr. Armstrong matched his talented teams and won against some of the finest teams and coaches in the DC area and beyond. In my mind he should be metioned in the same breath as Morgan Wooten from De Matha and John Thompson from St. Anthony as one of the Greatest Coaches to have coached in the DC area.

  9. I remember the great years of Coach Armstrong. Like his name implies, he was a “Mighty caring” coach full of strength and love for his players and students. I am from the class of ’72 and watched this mighty man of Valor coach some incredible athletes through 3 years of victory. It is a crying shame that the new McKinley gym has erased all of that artwork which displayed the many championship honors our athletic teams received over so many years! On McKinley- Victory is our Cry! Thanks Coach, may GOD bless you & your family! Lynne Holcomb

  10. Deidra Gray Cheek

    Such a wonderful man that brought so much joy and pride to McKinley Tech! He was a wonderful mentor, father-figure, and friend. He will be sorely missed.

  11. I am sure Coach’s family will appreciate all your comments. We may collect them and forward them.


  12. William Simpson Jr

    I attended McKinley from 1971-73 and I knew Mr. Armstrong very well. I’m the brother of Tim Bassett who was a member of the dream team in 1969. Our prayers go out to the family and may GOD bless you all. Mr. Armstrong was a legend in his day and will not be forgotten.

  13. I attended McKinley from ’69 to ’71. This was some of Coach Armstrong’s busiest years. He was my Physical Ed instructor. In addition to all Coach Armstrong was involved with, he would find the time to play a game or two of ping pong with me. I don’t think he ever realized what that meant to me then and how it continues to pay dividends to this day. He made me feel important.

    Thanks Coach,



    That was my idol, he was the first to say when i came to Tech, are you coming out for the manager’s job. I looked at him like he was crazy(smile) We had just won the jr high championship at Eliot jr. high. So coming to Tech was a big deal. So he said we let little guys come out for the team also. He had Kevin Tatum, Jeffrey Harrison before me. So i figured i had a chance. So i made the team and became a starter in the 10th grade. Our first game was against Western w/Larry Wright, John Smith, etc. We beat them in O.T. at Mckinley w/Xavier Yeoman, James Gorham, Thomas Burton, Morris Tyler and myself. I had 16 points so after the game he said i knew you were going to make the team. Everyone just fell out laughing. We went to the final four that year. I will never forget that moment. He was always there for me as a father figure and also my friend, coach. He taught me the important things in life after basketball, and to not anyone because of my size (5″7) to tell me no, that i couldn’t compete, i will always love that man for what he stood for. He was Mckinley, just like his name Mckinley Armstrong. God bless you Anthony Cricket Williams

  15. I was really saddened to read about our beloved coach Armstrong. He mad such an impact on the teams and those of us who were a part of the over-the-top cheering team. We loved being members of the McKinley Tech family, and a very large part of that was because of our awesome coach Armstrong. He will always be remembered.

    • Thanks for the memories Rita. I was one of Coach’s neighbors as a child. He later became our phys. ed. instructor. I feel for his family, as he was ill for some time.


  16. I met Coach McKinley Armstrong when I was a sophomore at McKinley Tech (Class of 1975). He chose me to be the basketball manager. His discipline and structure guided me and taught me lessons early on. Little did I know that opportunity would have me calling the box scores into the Washington Post newspaper after each game. This open a door for me to meet and work for Donald Huff, a Washington Post Sports columnist. Since graduating from McKinley Tech and college, I have worked in TV broadcasting for over 25 years. Thank you Coach Armstrong for giving me a chance to be a part of your life and for helping me to fulfill my dream with a career in communications. You will be missed by many. And may God Bless this family.

  17. Pingback: Cheap Seats Daily: Who Says Ted Leonsis = Dan Snyder? - City Desk - Washington City Paper

  18. John Armstrong

    I am Coach’s grandson. I am the oldest grandchild. My father was his first and only son. I am a rising senior in high school.
    I know this is very late, but this is my first time reading this blog.
    I just want to mention that I loved my grandfather very much. I was blessed to have known him my entire life. He was and still is my motivation to do well in life.
    I also want to share that my family is doing well and coping, though this is a huge void in our life. We appreciate all that everyone is doing to remember him and are glad that he touched so many lives.
    If I may, I’d like to know the status of the foundation in his name. I think that is a wonderful idea.
    I don’t know who of you, if any, have connections with McKinley Tech now, but I think it would be great if his impact on the school would be more evident in the daily activities of the school. I asked a few students I know that go there about him and they’d never heard of him. It was heart shattering.

    Once again, thanks for all the support. We appreciate.

    John Armstrong

    • Thanks John, I grew up with your dad. Your post is very moving, and your grandfather was a major influence on my life path. We at DC Basketball will attempt to learn what is taking place regarding a foundation in his memory, and continue to mention his legacy, even in our upcoming documentary on the local game.

      We will also be visiting the local public schools as speakers, to inform them of these rich histories. Thank you for visiting.


  19. Coach had away of letting you know what time it was . Iwas a gym rat and played in class with some of the greatest ballplayers in DC iwas good but coach realized that talent without education was wasted. Coach i got my BA and MA from UDC thanks for caring. Robert Joe Taylor class 1970.

  20. Hey guys what a loss, I just happened to find out today as a matter of fact of Coach Armstrongs passing, my condolences to the family. What can I say, the big guy took a chance on me, made me a starter and that changed my life from that day forward. He believed in me when others did not give me the opportunity to show my stuff, we’ve lost a good coach and a great man.


  21. Coach Armstrong was the coach of West Southern Pines High School in the 1950’s and 1961-2. A greater man has never graced to community of West Southern Pines, North Carolina. He actually wrote our school song. While our school, like many others, has been changed to the Southern Pines Primary School, Coach continues to be a vital part of the lives of all of us who were blessed to know him. Our bi-annual reunion is May 27-29 and as part of the festivities, there will be a special rememberance of Coach Armstrong, a true giant among men.

  22. Coach Armstrong was the coach of West Southern Pines High School in the 1950’s and 1961-2. A greater man has never graced the community of West Southern Pines, North Carolina. He actually wrote our school song. While our school, like many others, has been changed to the Southern Pines Primary School, Coach continues to be a vital part of the lives of all of us who were blessed to know him. Our bi-annual reunion is May 27-29 and as part of the festivities, there will be a special rememberance of Coach Armstrong, a true giant among men.

  23. Jeffrey Bluford

    I met Coach Armstrong as a young kid through a Summer Program at Catholic University years ago. When I got to McKinley as a student he he approached me sitting in the Gym as asked me why was I not trying out for the Basketball team. I replied to him that I didn’t think I was good or big enough to play on the team. He then all but grabbed me by the arm and took me to the Basketball coach and told him, “Coach this kid has needs to be on your team.” I got to try out although the team was just about set. Had I not got that opportunity things may have turned out a lot different for me. I became more focused and although I didn’t make that team I was able to transfer and play elsewhere and get a scholarship to play in college. He was one of the most gracious people in my life and always positive. His generation of black men are truly missed in our communities and culture today. I ma proud to have known “coach” and he is truly missed.

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