Honorable Football Coach, Inspiring Community Leader Mike Whittles Succumbs To Cancer After 16-Month Battle
By John Singleton
Archbishop Spalding head football coach and local resident Mike Whittles, known extensively throughout the community for his successful coaching and leadership abilities, passed away on June 7 after a 16-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
Whittles is survived by his wife, Diane, and children Jessica, Mike and Nick. Whittles became an inspirational leader long before being diagnosed with cancer. He took the reins of the Cavaliers football program in 1999, compiling an 85-53 record and leading Spalding to four MIAA B Conference championships.
Prior to that, Whittles coached youth football in the Green Hornets organization and devoted many hours to shaping the character of the young men who played football for him.
The Voice has compiled a few comments and words offered by friends and admirers of the beloved coach.
Coach Whittles was one of the most positive, inspirational coaches I have ever come across. Both my sons played a lot of youth sports, and my son Jason played for Mike his junior and senior year at Spalding. Win or lose, Coach Whittles would send out e-mails to his players summarizing highlights and motivating his team for the challenges ahead. Mikes loss will be felt at Spalding, in the Severna Park community and beyond. My deepest condolences and prayers go out to his wife Diane and his family.
Owner, Baltimore Ravens
Mike has been such an inspiration to his players over the years, not only as a coach but as a mentor and leader on and off the field. He was loved by the entire Spalding community. He was our head football coach and built our program to its current level of success. But to me, his true legacy will be measured by his personal strength, level of faith, and his message to all of the students at Spalding to make every day count. Mike Whittles was my head football coach, my colleague and most of all, my friend. He will be truly missed.
Archbishop Spalding High School
Mike Whittles showed a tremendous amount of courage since coming down with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He was a man who knew what he believed in all the way to the end. He also believed enough in himself that he set a goal 14 years ago to turn a very poor football program into a very good one, and he succeeded at Spalding in doing that. He did it the right way. You can see it in his players.
Former Head Football Coach Severna Park High School
He was a father figure. His lessons were far beyond football. He talked to us about how to be a good friend, a good person, and to eventually be a good husband and father. When we heard about his illness in Chapel it was basically a death sentence, and we were inconsolable. But Coach Whittles was naturally a prankster, and he wanted us to feel better, and after a while he started to joke about his illness with us and he showed us he wasnt afraid. He was high-spirited, he never gave up, and his faith in Jesus Christ never wavered.
I remember one time I was sitting in a freshman football meeting for parents at Spalding, and I heard Mike Whittles say that he considered it his number-one job to turn our boys into honorable young men. He didnt mention football. I was stunned. I had never heard anything like that before in youth sports. He went on to say that if you think youre here to get a football scholarship for your son, youre sitting in the wrong room. He was a man with great priorities and the perfect leadership style for young men.
Our hearts are heavy right now. We have lost a piece of Archbishop Spalding High School with the passing of Coach Mike Whittles. Coach is our hero who taught us courage, humility and integrity. We have been blessed with his presence and will continue to be blessed with his memory.
Kathy Mahar, President,
Archbishop Spalding High School
Back when I was reporting on youth sports for the Voice I had the privilege of watching Mike Whittles coach a 120-pound Hornets football team in a rainy, muddy, championship game. After the final whistle, Whittles ran to the 50-yard line and slid on his belly for about 20 yards in the mud, coming up completely soaked. His players erupted. The Hornets had won and Mike celebrated just like a little kid with his players. He had a gift for leading young men and they all absolutely loved him.
Lonnie Lancione, Publisher, The Voice
Mike Whittles is one of the finest men Ive ever had the pleasure of knowing. Our connection came through Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, where Mike is an alumnus and I a former principal. Mikes approach to teaching and coaching came from the Xaverian Brothers, whom he loved in his high school days, and he lived the values that his family and the Brothers instilled in him daily. If I had a son I would love for him to have been taught and coached by Mike, because if he were he would be a better man today. Mike will never be forgotten, and when he is remembered a broad smile will cross our faces and a warm feeling will fill our hearts.
Barry Fitzpatrick, Principal,
Mount St. Joseph High School
Lots of people say they dont know what the world is coming to. Those people havent met my kids at Spalding. Im thankful for them and everything God has given me. God has prepared me for this challenge Im about to face. I believe theres a reason this happened, and from this theres a story to be told. Im prepared to be that messenger.
Mike Whittles, February 2011