Close to 1,000 people mourned Steve McElvene — nicknamed “Doody,” “Tree,” or “Big Steve” at different points in his life — on Saturday at funeral at Abundant Life Church in McElvene’s hometown.
Dayton Flyers coach Archie Miller spoke publicly about McElvene, a 6-foot-11 center who spent two years at the University of Dayton, for the first time since his death May 12 at his family’s home in Fort Wayne. Miller stood in front of the church with his four seniors behind him: Charles Cooke, Kendall Pollard, Scoochie Smith and Kyle Davis. The rest of the team — all the players were there, including former guard Jordan Sibert — sat in the front rows.
Here’s an excerpt from a speech that caused Miller to break down in tears at one point. He got several pats on the back from his players before continuining.
“On behalf of everybody in the Dayton family, I’ll speak for us,” Miller said, “but instead of speaking to everyone in the room about Steve, I’d like to speak to Steve. Steve, a little over a week and a half ago, I sat in a room with coaches and your family. We discussed the next step in your development. I thought it was as powerful a meeting as I’ve ever had with a player. I remember thinking to myself, this is going to lead to a monster jump in his quest to realize his dreams.
“Little did I know the next time we would meet would be today. We certainly had some great moments together that we all talked about three years ago when we first met. There were tough times, too, but we all knew that was going to be the case. We had long conversations about life, tough, hard workouts to get in shape and hundreds of practices with me winning my individual battles with Steve usually every day.
“Regardless of those events, I could almost predict exactly what he would do in return, which would be to bounce back with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen like nothing had ever happened ready to go. You absolutely mesmerized us with your appetite to work and have fun. Your energy and laughs would dominate the room. Sometimes I couldn’t understand how you could be the best guy in practice when minutes earlier things weren’t going very good for you.
“You always at all costs went back to being yourself and brought that smile and energy to anyone at any time. You were the life of the party. Days like today do not make sense, so my words can’t really make sense of it. I wish I had one more time to talk to you, to send you one more text and get your famous response — ‘I got you, Coach — or just one more anything, to be quite honest.”