Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sports

Coach Billy Turner's tenacity, kindness lauded in Tampa funeral

TAMPA -— Even in the figurative fourth-and-long phase of his life, Billy Turner's tenacity remained stoked. As cancer gnawed at his brittle frame, one of the area's most iconic high school coaches eschewed surrender.

"I remember a year ago, Billy telling me how he asked his doctor if he was giving up on him," Ray Rairigh, a longtime Turner assistant, recalled Friday. "Billy told him if he was giving up on him that he would fire him right then.

"Coach Turner never believed in giving up."

He never did. To the contrary, Billy Barnes Turner, who excelled in the mile run (among other sports) at Auburndale High before evolving into the winningest prep football coach in Hillsborough County history (254 victories), simply reached life's finish line.

FAMILY MAN: It was all about family for Hillsborough coaching legend Billy Turner.

On Friday, one week after Coach Turner's death at age 79, an overflow crowd at St. Lawrence Catholic Church was there to celebrate that race. A testament to endurance, fortitude and a zeal for living, it spanned 38 head coaching seasons, eight children, 20 grandkids, six great-grandkids and hundreds of surrogates in shoulder pads.

His grandsons served as pallbearers. Granddaughters recited prayers and Scripture. A smorgasbord of current and former coaches, administrators and Turner peers sat snugly in pews or stood along the back of the church.

Roughly a dozen members of the current team at Chamberlain High — where Coach Turner spent 30 seasons — arrived in their green Chiefs jerseys.

"Billy taught all of us," said former Robinson High coach Mike DePue, who credits Coach Turner with helping him land the Knights job in 2003. "He always had a kind word. He showed us all how to do it."

LEGENDARY COACH: Hillsborough County prep football coach Billy Turner dies.

Tianne Turner Doyle, one of Coach Turner's six daughters, enlightened the audience on some of the lesser-known layers of her dad's life.

Though reared on country music (especially Johnny Cash), he came to embrace many genres, including show tunes and Irish tenors. He was a graceful dancer who waltzed with granddaughters at no fewer than a half-dozen debutante balls.

"He would whistle the tune of Phantom of the Opera," Doyle said. "You see, God gave Coach a built-in whistle."

An avid golfer, Coach Turner once recorded a hole-in-one on the 11th hole at Rocky Point. One summer, he grew an organic garden.

"And when he wasn't sure how to fix something, the athlete in him relied on tape to hold things together," Doyle said.

That included the beach tent he once attempted to construct from a tarp, two broomsticks and duct tape.

"That was just so Billy," she said.

He had far more success building winning football teams (he had 10 consecutive playoff appearances at one point) and a stable family life with Lucy, his wife of 56 years whom he met at the University of Tampa tennis courts, when both were students there. On Friday, Doyle called Lucy "the head coach now."

"(Cancer) was the biggest matchup of his life, and with Mom at his side, he fought with strategy, tenacity, confidence and a will to live," Doyle said. "He never quit. That was just Billy's way. Life was the greatest football game that Billy Turner ever played, and God is in dad's press box."

Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

 
Comments
Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

TAMPA — As usual, Andrei Vasilevskiy didn't speak in front of the cameras after the game. He has been like that since he hit the NHL. He still isn't comfortable with his English on TV.But Vasilevskiy spoke loudly and clearly in the first-round ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz at the top of this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the all-time record of six in the first round, set in 1983 with a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who was born in Odessa and starred at Tampa Jesuit, has apologized for a photo he intended as a joke, showing him holding a gun as he poses with his daughter and her prom date."Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

Rays pitcher Yonny Chirinos is no longer just part of a bullpen day, he's the No. 4 starter and who goes to the mound at 1:10 p.m. against Phil Hughes to try to help Tampa Bay attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the Twins.Catcher Wilson Ramos g...
Updated: 5 hours ago
District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

Class 9A-8 (higher seed hosts)Tuesday: No. 3 Alonso at No. 2 Palm Harbor University, 4; No. 4 Sarasota Riverview at No. 1 Newsome, 7Thursday: Final, 4 or 7 (depending on who hosts)Class 8A-4 at Strawberry Crest Tuesday: No. 1 Wharton vs. No. 4 Wiregr...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lightning has answer for Devils and David Puddy

Lightning has answer for Devils and David Puddy

You knew those who work the scoreboard for the Lightning games at Amalie Arena would have an answer Saturday during Game 5 to the Devils using David Puddy during Game 4 at the Prudential Center.Puddy meets Homer Simpson.Actually, Puddy met Terry the ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Members of the Rays organization sent their thoughts and prayers to former teammate Danny Farquhar, who was hospitalized Saturday night in Chicago in stable but critical condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm.Farqu...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Sunday vs. Twins1:10, Tropicana FieldTV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 760-AM (Spanish)Tickets: $20-$300; available at Tropicana Field box office, raysbaseball.com, surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game.Promotion: Mascot socks for kids 14 a...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

After a two-hour weather delay Saturday evening at USF, the remote local threat of lightning finally dissipated.The postseason intensity never did.For the second consecutive night, the UCF-USF baseball series delivered, this time with the Bulls (25-1...
Published: 04/22/18
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Updated: 5 hours ago