Lynchburg, Va. -- Decades before Michael Jordan immortalized the number 23 in the basketball world, those digits were already royalty at Lynchburg College.
Thanks to Wayne Proffitt.
Proffitt, who graduated from LC in 1967 and was the first All-American in program history, returned to his alma mater to coach for 15 seasons. His 249 wins make him the winningest coach in program history as well.
Years later, the Hornet community has not forgotten. Lynchburg will name the competition court in Turner Gymnasium in Proffitt's honor.
"I have no words," Proffitt told a group of former players when they broke the news over breakfast last week. "Thank you. Unbelievable."
The athletic department will dedicate Wayne Proffitt Court on Saturday, Feb. 3 at the men's basketball game vs. Emory & Henry. Also on that Alumni Day, Lynchburg will pay tribute to Proffitt and the three other All-Americans in program history: E.D. Schechterly ('80), Alex Graves ('16), and Zack Burnett ('17).
"As we have spent a lot of time dreaming of what our future can look like, we are humbled and thankful by the incredible contributions of those that have given so much to the college and to the history of our athletic programs," Lynchburg athletics director Jon Waters said. "When you look back at the accomplishments that Coach Proffitt had as a player and during his time coaching, it's pretty amazing."
No player in Lynchburg lore dominates the record book like Proffitt, a Lynchburg native who led E.C. Glass High School to the 1959 state championship, Proffitt came to LC in 1964 and played an important reserve role in his first basketball season, helping the Hornets to the Dixie Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.
The next two years, though, were something else. Leading the Hornets to another pair of DIAC titles, Proffitt scored in video-game numbers. He racked up the nine highest-scoring games in Lynchburg history, including six of 50-plus points and a 68-point outburst on Feb. 5, 1966 against UNC Charlotte, which is still the highest single-game scoring total from any collegiate player in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
He still holds the program single-game records for field goals made and attempted and free throws made and attempted; season records for points, scoring average, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted; and career records for points, scoring average, free throws made and attempted, and free throw percentage.
Proffitt's coach, Aubrey Moon, likely put it best when berating a referee who Moon felt wasn't using his whistle enough.
"And if [Proffitt] has the ball," Proffitt remembered his coach yelling to the official, "he's in the act of shooting!"
As a coach, Proffitt accrued a won-lost record of 249-175 between 1970 and 1986, guided the team to a championship in the newly formed Old Dominion Athletic Conference in 1979, and took LC to its first two NCAA tournaments in 1975-76 and 1978-79, and was the ODAC coach of the year in 1978-79. He mentored an All-American and conference player of the year (Schechterly) in 1979-80 and 10 All-ODAC picks in the league's first 10 seasons.
But for all his accomplishments on the court, it's the relationships that those who played for and with Proffitt cherish. From serious life advice to light-hearted steak-grilling festivals at Proffitt's home, each player has a "Coach Proffitt story" or two. Hence, a dozen of them can get together for breakfast to see their old ball coach.
"This is the least we can do in recognition of what you've done for all of us," Chip Berry ('78), an All-ODAC performer himself, told Proffitt when they broke the news.
All these years later, Proffitt hasn't been forgotten.
"Coach Proffitt is the most decorated basketball figure in Lynchburg College history," head men's basketball coach Hilliary Scott said. "He has made a tremendous impact on his teammates, former players and the entire Lynchburg Basketball family for over 50 years. This is an awesome way to honor and give thanks to Coach Proffitt for all of his years of service. He is Lynchburg basketball."