It was an evening fit for one of the country’s sporting giants this past Saturday, December 7, when Gladstone “Moon” McPhee was honoured in front of his family, peers and associates in a testimonial banquet, put together finely by the Grand Bahama Sports Promotion Association (GBPSA).
Poetically, like his daughter, Yolett McPhee-McCuin, who now calls the shots as head coach at the Pavilion at Ole Miss for the Lady Rebels, the grand occasion took place at the Grand Lucayan Pavilion, with a max capacity crowd in attendance, wearing their ‘Sunday best’, to pay tribute, share and relish in stories of yesteryear about “Moon’s” influence as a family man, educator and coach.
The laughs were non-stop with Peter Adderley serving as the Master of Ceremonies and the stories shared by protégés Charles “Softly” Robins and Ivan Butler, along with longtime friend Joseph Darville and others brought back memories of the coach and HOYTES (Helping Our Youth Through Education and Sports) Founder.
Never mind his physical stature, people were reminded that evening that McPhee’s influence and never-ending quest to push the country forward through sport stood tallest among most.
From his days coaching in New Providence, eventually moving to Grand Bahama and changing the island’s basketball landscape completely on the high school and night league level, to pushing former greats like Basil “The Kid” Sands, Ritchie Adderley and Ben Russell to be their best selves on and off the court among others, coaching up two of the island’s profound professional players in Jonquel Jones and Chavano “Buddy” Hield, and raising the current head coach of the Lady Rebels at Ole Miss – just to name a few accomplishments – many cheered and were ecstatic to be a part of the affair.
After countless hours and days mentoring young persons, with the help of his backbone Daisy McPhee, Moon was highly appreciative of the evening. After giving so much over the past 60 years, Moon’s words rang true, “I got it back.”
“To all of you who are here, I never imagined that I had done so much to bring all of you out here. Thank you so much. To my wife Daisy – when I met her, she was not a sports fan but she is the biggest basketball fan today.
“Before I came to Grand Bahama I said to Fred (Sturrup), who was writing for the paper at the time (in Nassau), I’m going. Give me three years and I will make Grand Bahama the ‘Basketball City’ of The Bahamas. Ladies and gentlemen, it took me three years.
“I must say, God is so good. You people made me feel so good that you came out and supported me. But, I’m not quitting. I’ll be out to HOYTES on Monday. I just can’t quit – I have to give back. So, I want all of you who think you could take that money in the coffin, try to give some back.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the GBSPA, thank you very much!”
President of the GBSPA, Fred Sturrup, shared in his welcome address that ‘sports magic’ plays a big role in the recovery phase post-Hurricane Dorian. With congratulations offered to Norris Bain, who jump started the major event aspect with the Tabernacle Falcons Thanksgiving Tournament this past November 27-30, he added that the testimonial banquet and celebration of Moon’s career added to that element.
“Sports magic in Grand Bahama, we are a part of the mental recovery stage from Hurricane Dorian. There’s restoration and giving food items but this is another recovery because it enables us to understand that Grand Bahamians can still do the things they always did in having events.
“This is another event we know the island will appreciate and in January we are going to have the Edward St. George Memorial Golf Tournament. So, I thank you all for coming.”
Robins, who was called upon by McPhee while coaching on the island of Bimini, was of the many that would not miss the opportunity to celebrate his former mentor. Looking to Moon as his “Michael Jordan,” the basketball giant, in his own right, spoke highly of the event calling it one of the greatest things to happen in sports in Grand Bahama.
“I think Moon is well-deserving. We can’t give him enough for what he’s done for Grand Bahama and the country. Especially myself; I admired Moon a great deal and lived my life after Moon’s life,” he shared, “I wanted to be great like Moon.
“A lot of people wanted to be Michael Jordan. I never wanted to be Michael Jordan, I wanted to be Moon McPhee. So, this is a special night for coach. This is a special night for me and it’s a special night for all these sporting greats out here.
“I’m glad that he’s alive to see what he has done for our people.”
Wade Watson, who is currently the Head Coach of the C.C. Sweeting Cobras and a former player of Moon’s at Grand Bahama Catholic High School, delivered the keynote address in the stead of Philip “Brave” Davis, leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
After extending congratulations on the party’s behalf, Watson expressed how much McPhee meant to his upbringing as a player and his eventual transition to coaching basketball.
From playing in the HOYTES League to eventually become a Crusader, Moon’s impact on Watson’s life was one that taught him the importance of discipline.
“Today, I am a coach following so much in his (Moon’s) footsteps. They even call me ‘Moon Boy.’ In high school he was my basketball coach and health science teacher. After high school he became my advisor and guided me to which decisions were best at the time and as a result I joined the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
“Later he became more like an uncle who looked out for me like I was his own son. Today, after the passing of my father he’s more like a new father to me – always there to talk to and share good or bad stories.
“I can’t express in words how much coach means to me and my family and my kids. Because of him I’m a better person, a better professional, a better father, coach and mentor.”
Longtime coach turned Deputy Administrator for Tabernacle Baptist Christian Academy Norris Bain also offered congratulations to McPhee, who also mentored Bain’s three sons through the HOYTES programme.
“First of all, congratulations to Moon and his wife, Daisy. Coach McPhee has been a national builder for all his life ever since he’s been in Grand Bahama. I just congratulate he and Daisy for what they have done for the Grand Bahama community and the country at large.
“Yes, he’s been very instrumental in the development of basketball and skills of basketball with my three sons. My oldest, Nathan and my youngest, Noah was out with him this morning working on his ball handling.
“Coach is really hard on the youngest because he feels like he has a chance to be the best of three boys and I’m really happy to be here in support of him and his wife for all they have done for the young people of this nation,” he concluded.
The evening concluded with raffle drawings, McPhee being presented with a commemorative plaque and much fanfare.