Jerry Leggett’s Blue Devils Were Also Mike Hellenthal’s Blue Devils
Saturday marked the birthday of former Quincy High School Blue Devil Coach Mike Hellenthal who now resides in Marion, North Carolina. So I thought I would take the time to spotlight a man that deserves to get a lot more credit than he ever got for helping the Blue Devil basketball program become one of the most talked about teams in the State of Illinois and beyond. I first met Mike when I arrived in Quincy back in 1978. I came to Quincy to work at WTAD Radio and became the play-by-play announcer for the Blue Devils at perhaps the best time any announcer could walk into Blue Devil Gymnasium.
That was the beginning of the Bruce Douglas, Michael Payne and Michael Rudd years. That team featured Jerry Leggett as the head coach and Mike Hellenthal was his assistant. That particular time period of Blue Devil basketball is well chronicled. When people talk about it, they always mention Coach Jerry Leggett’s Quincy Blue Devils. While Jerry Leggett seems to get all the notoriety for those great teams it was Coach Mike Hellenthal who was the stable influence that those teams needed.
Leggett could be moody and unpredictable on and off the court in dealing with his players as well as the media, but Mike was always there for his players especially when they couldn’t go to Leggett. You can’t put a value on Mike’s influence on those special teams in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Those teams were “calm under pressure” and I can tell you where that came from. It was Coach Mike Hellenthal.
A true test of a coach’s abilities can be found in what is said about them by their peers. Whenever I would bring up Mike Hellenthal’s name to other coaches they all said what I always knew that “Mike is a class act and a valuable asset to that team”.
Fans will always remember those teams as Jerry Leggett’s teams and they were. But if not for Mike Hellenthal’s coaching in the background we may not be talking 30 plus years later about a Quincy Senior High School State Championship in basketball.
By the way, for those who might not remember, Mike was a great baseball coach for the Blue Devils as well. Happy birthday Coach Hellenthal. I am glad I got to know you and I wish you the best.
Does anyone have a Coach Hellenthal story they would like to share? I can’t wait to read them.