Norfolk Academy sadly lost a legend this week, as Dave Trickler, who served 22 years as Director of Athletics and 35 years as a highly successful coach, passed away.
Coach Trickler led our varsity basketball program from 1966 until 2001. Under his guidance, the Bulldogs won two state championships, in 1985 and 1992, and 573 games overall. That victory total ranks him toward the top of the list among all Hampton Roads coaches.
He also coached football and baseball, and was Director of Athletics from 1979 until 2001. In addition to those duties, he taught world history for a time, served for many years as Field Day Chairman, and was Chairman of the Board of the Norfolk Academy Sports Camp.
Headmaster Dennis Manning joined the Norfolk Academy family the same year Coach Trickler retired. However, Mr. Manning had come to know and admire Coach in the 1980s, when he was teaching English and coaching basketball at Woodberry Forest School.
Though Coach Trickler had more experience, he treated Mr. Manning as a professional colleague and friend when they competed against each other. He showed extraordinary warmth, quick wit, genuine humanity and humility, and clear devotion to his players and teams. Though Mr. Manning dreaded the long bus ride to Norfolk, he was always reminded the trip was well worth it when Coach Trickler was there to greet the team enthusiastically.
“He was the consummate gentleman and exemplary ambassador for the school and the athletic program," Mr. Manning said.
Tommy Hudgins '72 was in Middle School when Coach Trickler arrived at Academy. Mr. Hudgins became a teacher-coach in 1976, learning from him as an assistant in both basketball and baseball. He is now NA's Middle School Director.
Coach Trickler was successful because he had an ability to connect with student-athletes and was incredibly thorough, Mr. Hudgins said. He planned every minute of practices, making sure players were prepared for every situation that might arise in a game.
Coach also never removed players from a game after a mistake, Mr. Hudgins said. He'd wait until they did something positive, so they could exit on a high note. That boosted confidence.
“He was a remarkable guy," Mr. Hudgins said. “Beloved by everyone."
Eric Acra '84 played basketball for Coach Trickler as a student, and joined his staff after returning to NA as a teacher-coach in 1991. Despite his lofty victory total, Coach never fixated on the final score, Mr. Acra said. He worried about making players better.
“Let the scoreboard take care of itself," Mr. Acra said.
Now NA's head varsity basketball coach, Mr. Acra models his program around those lessons he learned. One of his annual awards, given to a student-athlete who shows unselfish play, is named after Coach Trickler.
A 1997 Virginian-Pilot article on Coach Trickler noted that he was an all-state point guard at Prince George High School in Virginia, where he also played quarterback in football and shortstop in baseball. From there, he went on to become a two-sport standout at Hampden-Sydney College.
Despite standing just 5-foot-6, he excelled in basketball. A four-year starting point guard, he played in all 91 games of his collegiate career, recording 336 assists. In baseball, he was an All-Mason Dixon Conference selection as a senior.
A 1965 Hampden-Sydney graduate, he was inducted into the college's Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999.
“It's a great day to be a Bulldog" was a favorite Coach Trickler phrase, one that remains popular on campus today. “Poise and effort" was another favorite mantra, and former players said he had a way of always getting them to give 100 percent.
Griff Aldrich '92 played for one of Coach Trickler's state championship teams. Now the head men's basketball coach at Longwood University, he celebrated his old coach's winning resume. But he highlighted his care and compassion.
“Most important to me: I knew he loved me," Coach Aldrich said on social media. “Few men have impacted my life the way he has."
After graduating college, Mr. Trickler coached briefly at a school in Charlottesville before finding a home at Norfolk Academy. He lived on campus for many years. He had three children, Stefanie '85, Brian '89, and Tyler; Stefanie and Brian were student-athletes for Academy.
Coach Trickler's popularity stemmed from his gregarious personality. For years, he was given the stage during orientation meetings that kick off the school year. Without notes, he'd make eye contact as he announced the names and positions of every faculty and staff member, including new hires. To add humor, he'd pretend to forget names of those who were his close friends.
That warmth extended to student-athletes and parents. If ever they were frustrated about playing time or something else, he had the innate ability to calm the situation down.
“He was a master communicator," said Chad Byler, Academy's current Director of Athletics. “He had a knack for bringing people together."
When Mr. Byler joined Academy's athletics staff in 1992, Coach Trickler was the first person to welcome him. Coach quickly became a cherished friend and mentor.
Mr. Byler, who coaches junior varsity basketball, took notes on how Coach Trickler guided teams during practices and games. But he also took notes on how he impacted the entire school community, by leading chapels, organizing Field Day, and doing so much more.
“He was one of the Norfolk Academy giants," Mr. Byler said.
Please read Coach Trickler's obituary that The Virginian-Pilot published on August 9. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the David E. Trickler Scholarship Fund c/o Norfolk Academy, 1585 Wesleyan Drive, Norfolk, VA 23502.