Long-time East assistant basketball coach Amos Alford, 51, died on Thursday afternoon after suffering an apparent heart attack following a game of basketball over his lunch break.
Mr. Alford had been a coach on East’s bench for more than 15 years, winning state championships in 2002 and 2005 under Ron Allen and in 2015 under Joe Jackson. He also worked as a security officer at the Griffenstein Wells alternative school in the Wichita school district.
“His booming voice, his stories, his intensity, and his love for our kids are things I will always remember about Amos,” Jackson said late Thursday. “He has helped more kids in his lifetime than can even be counted. The legend of Amos Alford will live on forever in Wichita and at Wichita East High School.”
Mr. Alford’s daughter, Tor’e, is a standout basketball player for Derby and led the Panthers to the Class 6A championship game and was named honorable mention all-class in Class 6A this past season, while his son played for him on East’s junior-varsity team. He also had a daughter in middle school.
Derby boys coach Brett Flory was always impressed with Mr. Alford’s ability to juggle his commitment coaching at East and finding a way to watch his daughter play at Derby.
“He was a huge part of the basketball community in Wichita and anybody who knew anything about basketball in Wichita knew that Amos was a great coach, but a better man and a great father,” Flory said. “I was always surprised at how he would always seem to be in the stands for Tor’e’s games. I had a lot of respect for that and he was just that kind of guy.”
When Jackson moved to Wichita to become an assistant on Allen’s staff, Mr. Alford was the first person in town who embraced him and the two quickly became friends.
Jackson laughed recalling Mr. Alford’s ability to tell a story. He had a distinctive voice, an expressive face, and a knack for delivering a punchline. Some of the kids, and even Jackson sometimes, thought Mr. Alford was exaggerating his stories, only to find out days or weeks later that he was telling the truth.
“Coach Alford was one of the most unique people I’ve ever been around in my lifetime,” Jackson said. “He had a tremendous impact on everyone he came across and no matter where we were, he always knew somebody. That was the amazing thing, it seemed like he knew everybody.”
He developed a nickname — ‘Famous’ Amos — that naturally fit.
“We just started calling him that because it rhymed with his name, but so many people gravitated toward him and liked him he really was almost famous and like a star,” said R.J. Allen, the son of Ron Allen who also played for Mr. Alford his first year with the Blue Aces. “What hurts everybody is that our community lost an outstanding mentor to a lot of young people. He was a tremendous mentor and someone that a lot of people looked up to.”
But Mr. Alford wasn’t just a likeable personality — he was a respected coach as well.
Instead of pursuing a head coaching job, Mr. Alford preferred working with up-and-coming youth on East’s junior varsity team and motivating them to reach their potential. Jackson said he was a crucial part of the three state championships East has won since his arrival on the staff.
“He was tough on our student-athletes, but he was real and the kids loved that about him,” Jackson said. “He was the absolute best motivator I’ve ever seen or been around. He got kids to play harder than any other coach I’ve seen.”
“The thing that always stuck out the most about him was that he really cared about his kids and that’s the enduring memory I’ll take with me,” Flory said. “As a coach, as a father, as a man, he was always someone who really cared about other people and he’s going to be dearly missed.”