CHESTERTOWN — Darryl Deaton, the affable junior varsity basketball coach at alma mater Kent County High School and unofficial historian of his Washington Park neighborhood, died unexpectedly at his home Saturday evening, Sept. 5 — several hours after a community park that he helped shepherd along was dedicated.
Deaton, 57, had not been feeling well for about a week, according to his family, and did not attend the ceremony for the new basketball court and pavilion at Louisa d’Andelot Carpenter Park.
Arrangements are being handled by Bennie Smith Funeral Home, Chestertown.
Darryl “Cleats” Deaton was the next-to-youngest in a blended family of seven children. They were among the first families to move into the new Washington Park subdivision in the mid-1960s.
Deaton was a 1981 graduate of KCHS, where he lettered in football, basketball and baseball. He was co-president of his class for three years in a row.
Deaton attended Chesapeake College and culinary school, served in the U.S. Navy and had an extensive work history — including residential counselor for at-risk youth and substitute teacher — that showcased his skill set as a people person.
“He could listen as well as talk and when he asked you ‘How ‘ya doin’, he wanted to know how you were doing,” said John Larrimore, a lifelong friend and high school classmate.
It was as a coach that Deaton had his greatest influence, teaching his players as much about life as the game of basketball.
“I considered him my friend because of the amount of time I spent with him,” said Jake Jones, now 22, who was a captain on the first two teams that Deaton coached.
“He always had faith in you and he made you feel better about yourself. ... I’m so thankful for knowing him as a person, to have had him in my life,” Jones said in a telephone interview Sunday.
Sobaye Scott, Jim “Buck” Kennard and Deaton ushered in a new era for the Trojans when they took over the high school basketball program in December 2011. They led Kent to its first-ever Bayside Conference and region championships.
Scott also grew up in Washington Park and looked up to the much older Deaton. They also worked together as residential counselors at Kent Youth.
So when Scott, the head coach at KCHS, was putting his staff together, he immediately reached out to Deaton.
“All the experiences we had had growing up and the work experience we shared, I knew that basketball was going to be more than just basketball for him,” Scott said in a telephone interview Monday. “We shared the same philosophy about learning life skills through basketball. To instill in our players that through this basketball journey, you always have a friend, a big brother.”
Deaton already had indicated his intention to return for a 10th year as coach at KCHS, according to Athletic Director Kevin Taylor.