Philadelphia High School Basketball
A Look at Bill Ellerbee's 20-Year Coaching
Career at Simon Gratz High (1983-2002)
This page includes stories, special lists, record breakdown, recaps of wins in championship games and (at the bottom) the
names of all varsity players during Coach Ellerbee's 20 seasons. . . . To provide additions/corrections:email@example.com.
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Coach Ellerbee's All-Stars and 1,000-Point Scorers
DAILY NEW ALL-CITY
| Bill Ellerbee |
Bill Ellerbee, an alumnus, coached basketball at Simon Gratz for 20 seasons (1983-2002), winning 450 games and six Public League championships. His 1993 squad, featuring 6-11 Rasheed Wallace, stormed to a perfect season at 31-0. This story was written after the final victory.
By Ted Silary
was time for a minispeech in the Simon Gratz locker room and coach Bill
Ellerbee needed quiet.
League / Overall
1983: 3-6 / 6-14
1984: 8-5 / 21-7
1985: 11-2 / 23-4
1986: 13-0 / 24-4
1987: 8-5 / 13-12
1988: 11-2 / 17-5
1989: 12-1 / 24-2
1990: 13-0 / 26-4
1991: 10-0 / 27-1
1992: 11-0 / 26-4
1993: 11-0 / 31-0
1994: 11-0 / 26-4
1995: 11-0 / 25-3
1996: 15-0 / 28-3
1997: 16-0 / 24-5
1998: 11-2 / 21-7
1999: 13-0 / 23-5
2000: 13-0 / 22-6
2001: 15-0 / 24-3
2002: 11-2 / 19-7
20 Seasons, 1983-2002
League - 227-25
Overall - 450-100
Appearances in Late Rounds . . .
1984, 1985, 1986, 1998
1989, 1990, 1991, 1992
1993, 1994, 1995, 1996
1997, 1999, 2000, 2001
practices last week, Ellerbee continually reminded his players of the
tremendous opportunity that the championship game
would afford them.
"If we lost," he said, "it would have been like we went 30-0 for nothing.
"It would have been no use getting this far, then hissing it away. How many teams get a chance to win a championship? We
had the opportunity not only for a championship season, but to finish it perfect. I wanted to make sure we took advantage."
Said Turner: "It's like a guy who climbs a mountain and is almost at the top, then stops. Why bother "
Revenge was a huge motivating factor for Gratz, as was lingering anger.
After last year's title game, which was won by FLC, 63-50, Merlino called Gratz a one-player team. He was referring to
Wallace, who had 27 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocked shots.
"I want to put that statement back on them," Wallace roared. "They're the one-player team. Tyrone Weeks. That's it "
"I didn't like the statement (Merlino) made," Stokes said. "Go ask him how many players we have this year. We came out
here to prove something."
More than 90 minutes before game time, Stokes and Redmond were conversing with Weeks on the front steps of the building.
"We told him he was invited to our victory party," Redmond said. "He just laughed."
During the game, especially after the issue was decided, much trash was talked. Weeks was not a giver or receiver, however.
Weeks, a 6-6 Massachusetts signee, is respected throughout the league as the ultimate warrior and is friendly with all of the
When Weeks fouled out with 6:49 remaining, after being limited to five points (career total: 1,379) and nine rebounds, he
exchanged hugs with Smith, Stokes and Wallace. Then, Ellerbee walked from Gratz's bench to FLC's to console him.
"We tried our best," Weeks said. "They had us outnumbered benchwise, and they had a lot more height, too "
With Wallace, Gratz went 110-9 in four seasons (counting the forfeit). Its only loss to a local team was in last year's title game.
"Yeah, it was fun with Rasheed," Ellerbee said. "He was as good as the situations dictated that he be."
Then, he talked about next season, when four of the top nine players (Smith, Stokes, Stewart and jump shooter Michael
Blunt) will return.
"At the beginning, interest is going to be high," Ellerbee said. "People will be wondering whether we can win a game
without Rasheed. "
He was kidding.
This story was written in 2001 by Daily News columnist Rich Hofmann . . .
The coach said, "I'll tell you the main reason we
were able to take this team to the next level: Aaron McKie. He gave
himself up, got us focused. [He] was willing to step up and play exceptional defense on our opponents' best player. Game after
game, Aaron did that. He made sure everybody was in the [offensive] flow, too. "
Who said it?
Larry Brown in 2001?
Or Bill Ellerbee in 1990?
It could have been either, and anybody who has watched the Sixers lately knows it. That's how good McKie has been, how
unquestionably essential for a team playing without injured point guard Eric Snow. Brown knows that. You can tell when he
talks that he cherishes the contributions McKie makes.
But the speaker this time was Ellerbee, the coach of Simon Gratz High School, then and now. Ellerbee said it on the day he
won the first of his five Public League championships.
McKie was a senior guard on that team. Rasheed Wallace was a freshman phenomenon. They played together for that one
year in high school and for another half-season in the NBA before McKie left Portland and began the odyssey that brought
Last night at the First Union Center, they met up again in a semiannual confrontation between two of the six members of the
Simon Gratz Hall of Fame. The Sixers won the first one in Portland. The Trail Blazers won the second one, 93-75.
And Ellerbee, a third Hall of Famer, was talking.
"You know what happens when I watch them play? " Ellerbee said, in a phone conversation from his office at Gratz.
"Rasheed is so good that when I sit and watch him, well, you have to watch him. You know he's going to explode. You know
he's going to do something spectacular. So you watch him.
"With Aaron, it's different. He's going to flash across the screen sometimes, true. But mostly, you just know he's going to get
the job done. That's it - get the job done. It's really true that he has a lunch-pail approach, a blue-collar attitude. That's him."
Projecting Wallace as an NBA player was easy, McKie much harder. But Ellerbee - one of only a handful of men with 400
career victories in the history of the Public League - has the credibility to say it and make you believe it: He knew.
"Of course, Rasheed was going to make it," Ellerbee said. "I thought he probably could have been drafted right out of high
school [in 1993]. He was ready, I believe, but it just wasn't done at that time. People weren't ready for it. But I really thought
he was pretty much ready."
And Aaron? That one was more complicated. You have to understand that Ellerbee's relationship with McKie goes back,
well, forever. As McKie said, "He pretty much raised me from the age of 9 or 10. "
"Aaron came up to the recreation center [Belfield, where Ellerbee worked part time when not teaching]," Ellerbee said. "I've
known Aaron since he was born. He started playing 12-and-under when he was about 9 years old. He's a gym rat. I never
remember not seeing Aaron. "
But the NBA? You saw that?
"Aaron's a guard, so it was a little different," Ellerbee said. "But I always knew he was a great basketball player. He's so
solid. He tries to do what the coach tells him. But he's unspectacular. I think a lot of people missed on him because of that.
People, all they look for is spectacular. They forget that it's about getting the job done.
"He could have averaged 40 points a game in high school. But I told him to get the other kids involved, and if he did that,
maybe we could get a championship out of it. "
Which is exactly what happened.
The public demeanor of the two players could not be more different. Wallace is a technical-foul machine, an exposed
nerve. By comparison, McKie never seems to open his mouth. He laughs when he says that he used to have a lot of
Rasheed in him but that Ellerbee taught him to control it. He laughs again and says, "Some people just can't channel their
Ellerbee said, "They have this in common: intensity. Rasheed uses the intensity to help him be a better basketball player.
He's intense to the point of being unapproachable on the court, and he feels that helps his game. I tell him to try to get the
intensity without the emotion. Sometimes he gets a little of both. "
Ellerbee laughed. "Aaron's different," he said. "He's just as intense on the court as Rasheed, but Aaron is intense without
ever being emotional. "
Asked if he was going to the game last night, you could hear the hesitation and then the regret in the coach's voice. You
see, there's this 16-and-under team with which Ellerbee is involved, and there was a game, and he didn't think he could
find anybody to take his place and, well, you know.
"Duty beckons," Bill Ellerbee said. And so, on this night, the meeting of the Simon Gratz Hall of Fame would just have
to be short of a quorum.
This story was written in the summer of 2002, when Bill retired . . .
By Ted Silary
It appears the buzzer has sounded on one of the more successful coaching careers in city scholastic basketball history.
Bill Ellerbee, 450-100 with six Public League championships in 20 seasons at Simon Gratz High, has retired as a math
teacher and, by current School District rules, must relinquish his coaching job.
However, Ellerbee wants to continue guiding the Bulldogs and is investigating ways to make that happen.
With charter schools now joining the Public League, and with the partial takeover by the Edison group about to begin,
this is a time of change in the city's schools. Ellerbee is hopeful the honchos will see the wisdom of allowing competent
coaches to retain their positions.
"If change is being allowed in some areas . . . hey, what's good for the goose is good for the gander," he said.
Ellerbee mentioned that three former highly successful coaches - Ben Franklin's Ken Hamilton, West Philadelphia's Joe
Goldenberg and Frankford's Vince Miller - likely would have stayed on the bench after leaving teaching if they had been
"Just because I no longer want to teach, that doesn't mean I don't want to coach," Ellerbee said. "I still intend to be
around the program, if I can't keep the head job. Who knows? I might be able to help the kids even more if I'm just
concentrating on basketball.
"I was with the kids all summer and I'm taking some of them to [the prestigious Five-Star Basketball Camp] this Friday."
Ellerbee, 60, has had one Ell of a ride at Gratz, his alma mater. He ranks just behind Hamilton among PL coaches in
areer victories (456, in 28 seasons) and his average season produced an amazing, rounded-off record of 23-5.
The 2001-02 season was quite trying, though. The Bulldogs (19-7) failed to reach the final for only the second time in 14
seasons, falling in a quarterfinal; headliner Micheal Blackshear injured his right wrist and forearm punching a hole through
the glass portion of a classroom door; and Ellerbee, upset by what he considered poor officiating, pulled his team off the
court with 10 seconds remaining in a 51-49 loss to Overbrook.
Rumors swirled at season's end that Ellerbee would retire. He mostly deflected such talk. He mulled his future all
summer and, in tandem with his wife, Carole, who also has just retired from teaching (at Penn Treaty Middle School),
decided to make the move.
"I could have come back for one more year [as a teacher/coach]," he said. "I didn't want to be a lame-duck coach. I'm
not the farewell-tour type. I don't believe in that 'Win one for the Gipper' junk. I want the kids to win for themselves, not
"I have mixed emotions about this. I haven't had to make too many tough decisions over the last 20 to 25 years. I've had
the same wife for 36 years. I've had cars for 20 years. I tend to be tied to things for a long time.
"But you can't do something forever. Even things you love. I love breathing. At some point that's going to come to an
Ellerbee's first title, in 1990, was Gratz's first since 1939. He added crowns in '91, '93, '94, '97 and 2001. Gratz lost to
Franklin Learning Center in the '94 final, but was awarded the title after FLC was found to have used ineligible players.
Doug Connelly (West Philadelphia) and Paul Ward (Overbrook) also have won six PL titles. Connelly's career ended
in '68, Ward's in '71. In a much different era, in part before playoffs were instituted, Warren Weiler won seven
championships (one shared) in a career divided between West Philly and 'Brook; it ended in '48.
Ellerbee coached 13 first-team Daily News All-City players: Brian Shorter, Dennis "Dink" Whitaker, Aaron McKie,
Harry Moore, Rasheed Wallace, Lynard Stewart, Shawn "Reds" Smith, Terrell Stokes, Marvin O'Connor, Jarett Kearse,
Jermaine Robinson, Percell Coles and Michael Cuffee. McKie and Wallace are in the NBA.
For eight full seasons and parts of two others, Ellerbee's charges won 107 consecutive PL regular-season games. That
streak, which was 134 including all playoffs excluding finals, was halted on Jan. 6, 1998, in a 54-46 loss at Murrell
Note: Maurice "Mardy" Collins, a 2002 grad, also played in the NBA.
Recaps of victories in
Public League championship games . . .
At the Civic Center
Gratz 80, Franklin LC 60
Rasheed Wallace, a 6-8 freshman, led the rout with 23 points as the Bulldogs won their first PL championship since 1939. Harry Moore had 15 points while Aaron McKie added 14 points and eight assists. For FLC, Faron "Meatball" Hand had 19 points, eight rebounds.
At the Civic Center
Gratz 47, Franklin LC 43
After Wilfred Kirkaldy drew an offensive foul on FLC's Faron "Meatball" Hand with 0:08 left, Levan Alston converted a one-and-one at 0:06 to clinch the win. Andre Griffin (14) and Alston (13) led Gratz in scoring. Tyrone Weeks (15) and Hand (13) topped FLC.
At the Civic Center
Gratz 63, Franklin LC 45
With 8,500 watching, Rasheed Wallace totaled 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots as the Bulldogs (31-0) became the first city team to enjoy a perfect season since Overbrook in 1980 (34-0). Lynard Stewart added 14 points. Gratz was named the consensus No. 1 team in the country and the No. 3 team in city history by the Daily News. No one scored in double figures for FLC.
At St. Joseph's University
Franklin LC 56, Gratz 55
In the most amazing finish in PL playoff history, Michael Robinson (13 points) fumbled the ball, then ducked under the upraised arms of a defender and swished a 30-foot three-pointer with 1 second left to win it. It was the first time since 1968 that a championship was won on a last-second shot and the lead was FLC's first of the game. Rasiheed "Noot" Arnold poured in 34 points before fouling out. Lynard Stewart and Terrell Stokes scored 12 points each for Gratz.
Note: The school district later found that FLC had used ineligible players during the season. The district stripped FLC of the title and awarded it to Gratz.
At the Palestra
Gratz 68, Eng. and Science 46
Steve Kennedy collected 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks while Marvin O'Connor (13 rebounds) and Jarett Kearse also scored 14 points. Shatee "Meatball" Cooks added 11 points and 10 boards. Lynn Greer led E&S with 19 points to finish his career with 1,991. Also, he set PL and city playoff records with 138.
At Temple's Liacouras Center
Gratz 40, Frankford
This game was largely unentertaining and was often downright boring through three quarters. But in the fourth, Gratz turned up the defensive intensity, the rooting sections got involved and things got much more interesting. When the Bulldogs made their winning burst, the lineup included three subs -- soph Omar Johnson, junior Augie Woodlin and sr. William McNeil -- and all made major contributions. McNeil scored eight points in the quarter and it was his steal, 60-foot drive and not-easy dunk that put the Bulldogs ahead for good, at 36-34. Michael Cuffe (11 points) then went 4-for-4 at the line. Frankford shot just 9-for-30, but went 14-for-19 at the line. It also was guilty of 22 turnovers; 10 in the last quarter. Kevin "Chip" Green had 12 points, two assists and three steals. Nicholas King added eight points, five blocks.
Below are the players who helped
Bill Ellerbee claim 450 wins and six Public League championships in
20 seasons as the coach at his alma mater, Simon Gratz. The year indicates the player's final season. Most
were seniors. Some transferred and some were underclassmen who did not play in the following season.
|Kevin Hill||1983||William "Beau" Thompson||1989||Khari McKie||1998|
|Nate Edwards||1983||Mark Patterson||1989||Rasheem Sims||1998|
|Sam Denson||1983||Steve Patterson||1989||David Wright||1998|
|Anthony Johnson||1983||Jerome Allen||1989||John Helms||1998|
|Edward Pettiford||1983||William Spain||1989||Sharod Carroll||1999|
|Bryan McGhee||1983||Mike Epps||1989||Tahric Gosley||1999|
|Roy Goldwire||1984||Harry Moore||1990||Jermaine Robinson||1999|
|Lamar Belton||1984||Aaron McKie||1990||Shawn Sanders||1999|
|James Jackson||1984||George "Toot" Winns||1990||Kenyatta McKinney||1999|
|Wooston Osborne||1984||Khary Hutchinson||1990||Leon Fulton||1999|
|Derrick Watson||1984||Levan Alston||1991||James Russell||1999|
|Rodney Metz||1984||Andre Griffin||1991||Percell Coles||2000|
|Dexter Whitfield||1984||Calvin Wingfield||1991||Shaun McKie||2000|
|Carl Richburg||1985||Anthony Dozier||1991||Terrence Stokes||2000|
|Rodney Shorter||1985||Wilfred Kirkaldy||1991||Brandon Thompson||2000|
|Cecil Samuel||1985||Corey Griffin||1992||Matthew Rice||2000|
|James Corry||1985||Contrell Scott||1992||Joseph Mond||2000|
|Isaac Crooks||1985||Rasheed Wallace||1993||Afumiya McFadden||2000|
|Walt Dozier||1985||Alem Watson||1993||Anthony Abrams||2001|
|Brian Shorter||1986||Rondell Turner||1993||Michael Cuffee||2001|
|Dennis "Dink" Whitaker||1986||Jamahal Redmond||1993||Rasheem Dearry||2001|
|Chuck Morgan||1986||James "Noot" Smith||1993||Anthony Geiger||2001|
|Keith Walls||1986||Eric Lackey||1993||William McNeil||2001|
|Dewayne Rush||1986||Shawn "Reds" Smith||1994||Brandon Millwood||2001|
|Andre Ware||1987||Lynard Stewart||1994||Messiah Reames||2001|
|Eddie Savage||1987||Michael Blunt||1994||Micheal Blackshear||2002|
|Dwayne Rutledge||1987||Michael Henry||1994||Dashay Brown||2002|
|Sutton||1987||Dawan Boxley||1995||Maurice "Mardy" Collins||2002|
|Byron Prosser||1987||Brian Samuels||1995||Kevin Harris||2002|
|Darren Cameron||1988||Anthony "Chester" Watson||1995||Omar Johnson||2002|
|Stephen Woods||1988||Erik Hood||1995||Jason McGirt||2002|
|Andre Armour||1988||Arthur Dorsey||1996||Tariq Rascoe||2002|
|Duane Wilkes||1988||Perry DiVirgilio||1996||Tyrone Smith||2002|
|Spencer Jackson||1988||Terrance "Fats" Smith||1996||Brandon Void||2002|
|Robert Green||1988||William Horton||1996||Matthew Walden||2002|
|Darryl Simpson||1988||Ron "Bambi" Campbell||1996||Tyree Watson||2002|
|Jarett Kearse||1997||Malcolm Welles||2002|
|Marvin O'Connor||1997||Tariq Wharton||2002|
|Shatee "Meatball" Cooks||1997||Augie Woodlin||2002|