“He is one man that I just enjoy talking about,” Steve Beverly, associate professor of communication arts, said as he recalled stories of Coach David Blackstock. “He’s somebody that we’ll continue to tell stories about.”
David Blackstock, Union University’s former coach and athletic director, died Nov. 1 at age 75 after fighting a lengthy illness.
One of Union’s own, Blackstock graduated in 1964 with a degree in health and physical education, having played baseball on scholarship during the four years. After completing a Master of Education degree from the University of Memphis and a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, Blackstock returned to Union in 1973 as the athletic director.
In 1975, he began co-coaching baseball with Linn Stranak, the current department chair of physical education, leading the team to the third place in the 1983 NAIA World Series. Stranak and Blackstock balanced each other in their coaching style, keeping things loose and focused at the same time. In the department, they would frequently visit each other’s office to exchange ideas and input as the athletic director or department chair.
“He knew how to take a situation where you needed to be real serious and not lose that, and yet, make it light, so that everybody was not tense and they could move right on with the task at hand,” Stranak said.
Blackstock began coaching the Lady Bulldogs in 1981. During his 18 seasons, the women’s basketball program had a 509-89 record. Blackstock lead the team to the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship in 1988 and earned his 500th victory during the 1998-99 season. Beginning in 2006, he also coached women’s softball for two seasons.
He is enshrined in the NAIA Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, the Madison County Sports Hall of Fame and the Union University Sports Hall of Fame.
Blackstock always expected considerable effort from his players and valued discipline and fundamentals when it came to the sport. Beverly recalled that Blackstock would call 6:30 a.m. practices even after a win when he felt that the team needed it.
He would often find ways to weave humor into his coaching. During one game, Blackstock pulled a player out and said, “You’re playing neighborhood defense out there! You’re playing that kind of defense that somebody comes right by you and says, ‘hi neighbor’ and comes in the door, goes right by you and hits the shot.”
Many of Blackstock’s former players came to the memorial service on Sunday – a testimony of his influence on the players as individuals.
“He was a life coach as well as a sports coach,” Beverly said, recounting the way that Blackstock sought to guide his players even in areas of family or faith. “He wanted to not have a player leave here without him at least sharing the gospel with them.”
Tommy Sadler, Union’s athletic director following Blackstock, could also see that Blackstock was a person who loved others and made people feel comfortable.
“People in the community are going to remember the kind of competitor he was, but they’re also going to remember that in a loss he was very gracious and very humble,” Sadler said. “He loved his players. He loved this university.”
Following his retirement after serving the university for 34 years, Blackstock continued to show his dedication to the Union community. He could be seen at almost every sports game, and would have a story to tell every time he met Beverly in the wellness center.
“There’s not a doubt in my mind that the reason that he is revered as a legend and ‘Mr. Union Athletics’ is because relationships was everything to him,” Beverly said. “There’s nothing he loved more than being around people, being around his players and his colleagues.”