A group of youngsters is gathered in the gymnasium of a small institution in east Baltimore… the group is made up of young basketball players who have committed to keeping alive a winning tradition which began over 40 years ago at Dunbar High School.
The 51-year-old man serving as their coach is Carmie “Pete” Pompey who is as dedicated to these teens and early twenties kids as were his predecessors – Sugar Cain and Bob Wade – to the youngsters of the sixties, seventies and eighties.
Like Cain and Wade, Pompey was himself an outstanding athlete – all of whom came out of the once great fountain of talent that prevailed at Morgan State College.
The tradition was born in the fifties when Cain moved in and transformed a chaotic program into a lure for scores of one-parent youngsters who were destined to learn the value of education through organized athletic effort… three consecutive undefeated basketball seasons followed, as well as an acceptable mark in football.
It continued under Wade until the great success of his teams brought about the ill-fated journey to the University of Maryland.
Today, under Pompey, Dunbar basketball is unmatched by any high school team in the country… this according to polls conducted by Sports Illustrated, Parade magazine, USA Today, The Sporting News and The Associated Press, all of which have had the Poets ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks.
Meanwhile, Pompey maintains a low profile… with a modesty that is uncharacteristic of most coaches, he prefers to regale interviews with tales of his past and present players.
He tells of the fine young teams he was “lucky” to have at (Baltimore’s) Edmondson High prior to moving to Dunbar… His love for the kids he had then and now is reflected in the manner of his rebuff when someone mentions the success of Reggie Lewis, Reggie Williams, David Wingate, Tyrone “Mugsy” Bogues, the Dozier Twins, etc., all of whom left Dunbar to pursue brilliant collegiate careers.
“Oh sure,” he replies, “but we had some successes at Edmondson also… Sam Cassell is captain at Florida State, Kevin Green is at Loyola, Louis Lambert at Cleveland State and Clarence Alexander is playing well at Towson State.”
Then comes the chastisement… “don’t spend time on me… It is the young people who make me look good.”
But, despite his protestations, if Cain and Wade supplied the winning potions, it is Pompey who stirs the drink.
Carmie, insisting that he is nothing special, was born in Morganton, N.C., came with his family to Baltimore when he was 6-years-old, and was enrolled in School 116 in East Baltimore.
“As a kid, I played a little of everything on the local playgrounds and open lots… Like most youngsters, I had no favorite sport – baseball in the summer, football in the fall and basketball in the winter… Whatever the season, that was the sport I loved the most.”
At Douglass High – under the late Mack Payne and Roy Cragway- Pompey played quarterback and handled the kicking… At Morgan, he was the quarterback and the finest punter in the school’s history rivaling the feats of the great Otis Troupe of earlier Bears teams.
Carmie has three sisters – Carol, Jean and Cynthia – and a brother, Bobby… His wife, Barbara, was described last week by AFRO columnist Bettye Moss as a loyal fan who attends every game of her husband’s spectacular basketball team… A daughter, Rhonda, is a state employee at 23.
Although, the present education condition has him wearing many hats; a teaching load of 4 classes, coach and acting athletic director, Carmie says he “wouldn’t change a thing.”
The most rewarding thing of all, he declares, is “that for the past 15 years, I’ve been dealing with an assortment of fine young athletes and beautiful people.”