Former Arkansas City High boys basketball coach Anthony Brantley, 39, died on Sunday from an apparent heart attack after collapsing during a game of pick-up basketball four days earlier.
Mr. Brantley, an alumnus of Arkansas City, coached the Bulldogs from 2009-16. He is survived by his wife, Belena, and their three children, Aislynn, Aidan, and Alaina. A GoFundMe account set up to help the family with medical expenses has nearly tripled its goal in less than a week.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Arkansas City High School. Visitation is from 6-8 p.m. at Rindt-Erdman Funeral Home.
Friends and family gathered at the Arkansas City Recreation Center on Sunday evening for an honorary night of pick-up basketball, a setting they said Mr. Brantley would have loved.
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“Ant was first and foremost a basketball guy, that was his life,” said C.J. Jennings, who took over the boys program from Mr. Brantley and has been a life-long friend. “Last night the gym was packed and he would have loved it. Everyone was there to support Anthony and his family came up and it was just a real good time. Something to lighten the mood a little bit and give everybody a break from the reality that we’re dealing with.”
Mr. Brantley had a history of heart problems, but friends were still shocked by the sudden death.
“It’s hard to believe because this was a guy who lived in the gym,” Jennings said. “He plays more basketball than anybody I know. It’s just hard to believe something like this could happen, especially right there in the gym where we always play. I think everybody is still in shock and still in disbelief.”
Since stepping down as the coach of the boys basketball team, Mr. Brantley had been a physical education teacher at the high school and also an assistant tennis coach. Mr. Brantley had also started his own basketball training program called “Embrace The Process,” as he was working with aspiring players from Arkansas City, Wichita and Oklahoma.
Helping athletes in the community will be his legacy, according to Jennings.
“He did so much for kids in the community and a lot of stuff people don’t even know about,” Jennings said. “If a kid was in a tough situation, Anthony would give them a pair of shoes or spend extra time with them. He really did care so much for young athletes here in our community.”
Mr. Brantley played basketball in college at Oakland City, a Division II program in Indiana, before playing professional basketball overseas in France from 2002-05.
“The one thing about Anthony was he was a friend to everybody and he brought people together,” Jennings said. “One way or another, every conversation you had with him would come back to basketball and he would just light up like a Christmas tree. He’s a big-time LeBron fan and I would go back-and-forth with him on LeBron. I was just thinking about calling him up and telling him it’s time for LeBron to get swept and I don’t get to have that conversation with him. It’s tough for everyone, but it’s especially tough for his family. My heart just goes out to those kids and it breaks for his family.”