By Bob White,
Looking back on his collegiate basketball
career George Tinsley says his four years playing at Kentucky Wesleyan was like
During his time at the
Owensboro school, Tinsley helped the Panthers reach the championship game of the
NCAA’s Division II tournament all four years, winning the title in 1966, ’68 and
’69, and finishing as the runner-up in ’67.
the NCAA as a freshman was a great moment for me, he said. "It was my first
Tinsley finished as
Wesleyan’s fourth leading career scorer with 2,014 points, averaging 22 points
as a senior and tallying a career-high 43 against Gann University. He was named
an All-American in 1968 and ’69 after grabbing a school record 1,115 rebounds in
his career and being named the MVP of the ’69 NCAA finals.
Tinsley was so impressive
as a collegian he was named to the NCAA Division II’s 50th anniversary team,
along with such players as Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe and Jerry Sloan. He also
was picked as an alternate on the ’68 U. S. Olympic team that was captained by
the late Mike Silliman, who led St. Xavier to the 1962 Kentucky state high
school crown and later starred for Army at West Point, N.Y.
After that came
professional basketball. Tinsley was drafted by the Oakland Oaks of the ABA in
1969 and played four seasons with the Oaks, Washington Capitals, Miami
Floridians, Kentucky Colonels and the New York Nets.
also was drafted by the Chicago Bulls of the NBA,’’ Tinsley said.
Bulls wanted me to go to their camps, and they wouldn’t talk money. The ABA
didn’t require you to attend camps, so I signed with the ABA. I got my $10,000
signing bonus, bought me a ’69 GTO and I was off rolling.’’
The playing days of the
Louisville Male High product ended years ago, but today as a family man and a
businessman, Tinsley is just as successful as he was on the basketball court.
Maybe even more so.
He began his career as a training instructor for
KFC Corporation. Today, he is president and CEO of the family’s businesses
PenGeo, Inc., Tinsley Group, Inc., and Tinsley Concessions in Winter Haven, Fla.
— that include 45 restaurants with various
franchises. His companies serve concessions at three major airports: Tampa and
Miami in Florida and the one in Louisville.
He has been married to his high school
sweetheart, the former Seretha Summers (at left), for 39 years. His company — Pen-Geo,
Inc., dba KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) — is named after his children, Penni D.
Tinsley and George Wm. Tinsley, II.
Yet, he has found time to
serve as president for the NBA Retired Players Association. His time in that
capacity ended with the national convention in February in Los Angeles. Now, he
will serve that organization as treasurer to the NBA’s Board of Directors.
That’s not all. In 2009,
the Louisville Sports Commission honored Tinsley as an honorary co-chairman of
the NCAA Division II 2010 Winter Games.
To what does Tinsley owe
his successful life?
lot of it is what I learned at Male High and Kentucky Wesleyan,’’ he said.
have to treat people like you want to be treated. I wouldn’t trade my
relationships with people I met in high school and college for anything.’’
Tinsley also served KFC
Corporation as an area manager, a director of field human resources and
franchise manager. His first KFC franchise at Auburndale, Fla., turned out to be
most profitable in the country,’’ Tinsley said.
we got a franchise at the Tampa Airport and that opened the doors for more
partnerships,’’ he said.
He is proud to be going
into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, after being nominated by such
well-known basketball figures as Houston, Butch Beard, Wes Unseld and former
Wesleyan coach Guy Strong, who coached the Panthers from 1963-67.
means a lot to me and being the first Division II player in the Hall of Fame,’’
said Tinsley, who now resides in Auburndale, Fla.
He already has been
inducted into the halls of fame at Male High and Kentucky Wesleyan.
What a lot of people don’t
know about Tinsley is that he was adopted. His mother left him at a day care
facility when he was six months old and never returned to pick him up. Willie
Tinsley, the day care operator, adopted him even though she was 65 years old and
walked with a crutch.
George stayed with Willie
until she died, when he was in junior high, then he moved in with Willie’s son.
Gaye Howell, Tinsley’s
seventh-grade teacher at Eastern Junior High, remembers George and still keeps
in touch with him.
was only 20 and had just graduated from the University of Louisville,’’ Howell
grew up in a rough area of Smoketown. By the time he was 13, he was raising
himself. He always wore a pair of brown corduroy pants to school. He washed and
ironed them every night. As the pants got shorter and shorter, George’s socks
got longer and longer.’’
Howell followed Tinsley’s
career and went to Kentucky Wesleyan when he was the 2009 commencement speaker
and given an honorary doctorate degree. As a student, Tinsley had been the first
African-American to be awarded Wesleyan’s highest honor, admission to the Order
of Oak and Ivy.
consider George one of my boys,’’ said Howell, now retired after teaching in the
Jefferson County public school system for over 50 years.
always wanted to learn and he always was polite. He is such an inspiration to
other people. He still calls me ‘Mom’.’’
Tinsley said he
low self- esteem’’ upon entering Male High, but he became close friends with
Garnett Phelps (a star quarterback who also played basketball). Tinsley said
Phelps’ father and mother were always there for George. Tinsley says the biggest
championship Male won while he played for the Bulldogs was the 1964 Louisville
Invitational Tournament title in his junior year.
took all the experiences I learned while playing sports and applied them to the
business sector,’’ he said of his success.
learned to take a loss.’’
# # #
KAHF ceremony photos by Jim Reed