On March 2, former Kokomo player and Purdue freshmen coach David Toney died from Alzheimer’s disease. One of his former players on the Boilermaker freshmen team remembered his beloved coach.
Tony Ricks, a graduate of Lafayette Central Catholic, tried out for the freshmen team at Purdue University in 1967. With the name “Tony” being the shortened version of his middle name, “Anthony,” Ricks said once he got to college many people called him by his first name, Robert. But in one particular memory with Toney, Ricks said he was called by a different name for once.
“When I got to Purdue, it seemed like ‘Robert’ was a thing. I’ll never forget; Coach Toney was the only coach I ever had during a melee of a hectic moment in practice, he shouts out ‘Bobby!’ He calls me Bobby.
“The reason that stuck so much in my head, I had a beautiful little cousin named Bobbie that was a female. I said, ‘Coach, you can’t call me Bobby.’ That’s probably my most prolific moment with Coach Toney is him calling me Bobby,” Ricks said.
Toney was always “very, very sharp” in his appearance with the way he dressed, all the way down to his socks, said Ricks. As a coach, Ricks thought Toney was quite thorough in his teachings, as Toney led the freshmen team to two undefeated seasons. Additionally, he noticed the head coach of the Purdue men’s team at the time, George King, had a lot of respect for Toney as well.
Previous to coaching at Purdue, Toney coached briefly at Covington Community High School. Preceding his time with the Boilermakers, Toney took a coaching position at Arizona University, winning the Western Athletic Conference Championship. Following this time with the Wildcats, Toney became the head coach for the men’s basketball team at Flagler College in Florida and then went on to teach and coach at Pompano Beach High School where he led the Tornadoes to regional championship wins and a Coach of the Year award.
When asked what made Toney so successful, Ricks wasn’t sure.
“I guess when you’re a player at that age, for some reason you don’t take notes on that. He had to take the philosophies of George King,” Ricks said.
After Ricks left Purdue, he said he still didn’t know Toney was from Kokomo. After coming to Kokomo from Lafayette in the early-1970s as a school teacher at Western School Corp., he found there were numerous people in the county with the last name Toney. After mentioning his coach, individuals in the community informed Ricks that Toney was from Howard County, he said.
Ricks played AAU basketball after finishing his couple of years on the Boilermakers’ basketball team. After leaving the sport of basketball, Ricks got involved with the racing industry that lured him to the City of Firsts after getting a degree in industrial education. Following his time teaching, Ricks worked in a retail speed-shop facility and later at General Motors.
In 1978, he opened Tolin Hi-Performance and K and K Model Railroad, where he still currently operates as the owner.