Longtime Fontbonne University athletic director and former men’s basketball Head Coach Dr. Lee McKinney passed away Monday morning (April 4) after a long fight with cancer. This was the third battle McKinney had with cancer.
“The Fontbonne family and entire basketball community has lost one of its true leaders and a loyal friend,” Fontbonne Director of Athletics Maria Eftink said. “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, a St. Clair High School graduate, served 23 years as Fontbonne’s director of athletics and just completed his 24th season as the Griffins head men’s basketball coach. McKinney stepped down at the end of this season to focus on his family and his health issues.
During his tenure as Fontbonne’s director of athletics, the athletics department grew from three to 19 teams, with the number of student-athletes jumping from 35 to the current 350.
McKinney played an instrumental role in Fontbonne’s membership into the NCAA and in establishing the University as a founding member of the SLIAC. McKinney also served on several NCAA committees including management council, financial aid committee, playing and practice seasons subcommittee, strategic planning and finance committee, convention planning subcommittee and nominating committee.
As the Griffins’ head men’s basketball coach, McKinney compiled a 330-281 record with three St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) championships, five SLIAC Tournament championships and four appearances in the NCAA Division III National Tournament. He holds the SLIAC and Fontbonne record for most men’s basketball coaching victories.
Prior to Fontbonne, Mc-Kinney served as the head men’s basketball coach at Missouri Baptist University. During his tenure at Missouri Baptist, McKinney compiled a 188-126 record and was named the Show-Me Conference Coach of the Year in 1983 and 1988.
McKinney started his coaching career over 50 years ago at Qulin High School. McKinney compiled a 287-215 high school coaching record during his stints at Missouri and Illinois area high schools.
For his career, McKinney has 805 career victories and 518 career collegiate wins.
He was inducted into Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, the Missouri Baptist University Hall of Fame in 2003, Fontbonne University Hall of Fame 2000, St. Clair High School Hall of Fame in 1995 and St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Hall of Fame in 2010. The SLIAC honored Coach McKinney last year by naming an award after him.
The Lee McKinney SLIAC Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to the individual who has served or competed in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and best exemplifies the qualities of leadership, dedication, service and perseverance. McKinney was the first recipient of the award.
This weekend, McKinney received a National Association of Basketball Coaches Outstanding Service Award at the NABC Convention in Houston, Texas. The award has been presented annually since 1997 and is given to coaches whose actions “inside and outside the lines” of coaching have distinguished them as valuable members of their communities.
While McKinney wasn’t able to attend the ceremony, his three children went on his behalf to receive the award.