Story courtesy of Larry Woody
MURFREESBORO – Jimmy Earle, a former McMinnville High basketball standout who became a record-breaking coach at Middle Tennessee State University, will have the school’s basketball arena re-named in his honor on Feb. 15.
MTSU’s Monte Hale Arena in Murphy Center will be re-christened the Monte Hale/Jimmy Earle Arena.
As he looks forward to the tribute, Earle looks back with fondness at where it all began – in McMinnville.
At McMinnville High, Earle was an All-District player as a junior, and earned All-Central Tennessee Conference honors as a senior. Those performances caught the attention of college recruiters, and after graduating from McMinnville High in 1953, Earle played at MTSU and Martin Methodist College in Pulaski.
“I have great memories of McMinnville,” says Earle, one of the most recognized and popular sports personalities in Middle Tennessee. “There’s a lot to be said for growing up in a small town. There were – and still are – some wonderful people there, and a lot of them had a big influence on my life.”
Earle’s first coaching job was at Algood High. He spent one year there, winning games and the heart of a pretty young Algood resident named Frances – the future Mrs. Earle.
From Algood High, Earle coached two years at Smithville High, then landed a job at Martin Methodist College where his star continued to rise.
In 1966 he returned to MTSU as assistant basketball coach, freshman basketball coach, and baseball coach. His freshmen teams compiled a 74-29 record, and in 1969 he was promoted to head coach.
Over the next ten years Earle’s Blue Raiders put the program on the national map. They won two Ohio Valley Conference regular-season championships and two OVC tournament titles. Earle coached two of his teams to the first NCAA Tournament appearances in the school’s history.
When he left coaching to become MTSU’s Athletics Director, Earle’s Blue Raiders had compiled a record of 164-103, including a record 33-game winning streak on their home court.
Earle received MTSU’s Distinguished Alumni Award and is enshrined in the Blue Raiders Sports Hall of Fame. And now his name will be become synonymous with the arena in which he enjoyed so much success.
“It’s a tremendous honor, and I appreciate it,” Earle says.
The late Monte Hale was a MTSU broadcaster who called all of Earle’s victories. The arena was named after him several years ago, and his son, Monte Hale Jr., says his father “would be proud” to share the accolade with Earle.
“He and my father were best friends, as close as brothers,” he says. “I think it’s only fitting that the arena will be named in honor of both of them. I’m excited for Coach Earle.”