Smith on Sports: All it took was one of his loud whistles

Danny P. Smith

Sports Editor

It was the whistle.

Many people shared stories with me on Wednesday of what they remember most about former Starkville High School baseball coach Danny Carlisle, who had passed away earlier in the day.

Some of my first memories of Carlisle was when he was the driver of my school bus in the late 1970s as I came up through the Starkville public school system. He would pick up me and my sister on a route down Highway 25.

Even though he wasn't my bus driver for a long time, it didn't take long to figure out who was in charge and he had a unique way of letting you know he meant business.

One day when there were a couple of children getting a little too rowdy in the back of the bus, Carlisle let out the loudest whistle that I think was humanly possible. He didn't have to use a coaches' whistle. He did this with his own mouth.

At that very moment, order was restored on the bus and there were no further issues. He was definitely recognized as the authority figure in that situation.

On another occasion, I was in the middle of a long lunch line at Armstrong Middle School one day. It was very loud in the room and it was really hard for me to believe anyone had time to eat because of all the talking.

All of a sudden there came a piercing sound out of nowhere. Once again, it was Carlisle's famous whistle. That meant it was time for everyone in the lunch room to be quiet. After that, you could have heard a pin drop.

Over his 28 years as the head baseball coach at Starkville High School, his players probably heard that whistle a time or two. I'm sure Carlisle used it to get their attention because he had something very important to tell them and something that was going to make them better.

Carlisle did this because he cared about his players and many of them went on to become coaches themselves.

There was more to the relationship between Carlisle and I than just those early days on a school bus or him providing me a little peace at the school lunch table.

Carlisle was a very important influence in my life and one of the reasons I returned to the Starkville Daily News as sports editor in 2010. He helped me greatly in my career.

Many of our most special times came on – you guessed it – a bus.

I'll never forget early in my sports-writing career when Carlisle offered to take me with the Starkville Yellow Jackets on a playoff expedition. I jumped at the chance because it was a thrill of mine to be able to cover my alma mater and get to know the players, coaches and parents.

Our journey took us from Starkville to Biloxi and then to Clinton for a neutral site deciding game. I think we all may have lived off of Thelma "Granny" Williams' famous championship cookies during the trip.

Even when I made mistakes and didn't report things as accurately as I should have, Carlisle still treated me well and worked with me to improve my craft. I appreciate him for not kicking me off the bus when I probably deserved it.

As I continued to mature and develop as a sports writer, Carlisle became one of my go-to people for interviews. He always answered my calls and helped me with stories, especially when it involved one of his former players.

I am a better person today for having known Danny Carlisle. He was a great coach, a great man and will definitely be missed.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.