The team photo is now somewhat haunting.

A friend posted it on the cover of his Facebook page.

A few smiling faces. Bright eyes. So many expressions full of hope. So young.

It’s the 1986-87 University of Central Arkansas basketball team, one in which Scottie Pippen, just bursting upon the national scene, was the star.

Four who were a part of that team are now dead: Assistant coach Arch Jones, Byron Bland, Reggie House — and now Jimmy McClain.

McClain, who was an assistant coach at Ridgeway High School in Memphis, was found dead of an apparent homicide in his Cordova, Tenn. home Friday.

In this business, you become accustomed to shocking developments.

Life happens.

This one had an extra bit of sting.

I thought of the last time I saw McClain — at Jones’ funeral service a couple of years ago.

For perspective, we’ll back up a bit.

McClain was a highly touted guard out of Elaine with amazing athletic ability and a fantastic vertical leap. He and Pippen were a formidable tandem, ferocious on a trapping defense, intimidating to even the best ballhandlers. They could generate defense into offense in a second. And the offensive result would often be spectacular.

McClain was tenacious — often reflecting an attitude. He backed down from no one.

He had a couple of professional tryouts — even with the Chicago Bulls after they drafted Pippen. The Bulls were looking for a defender who could give Michael Jordan a hard time during practices.

He became a journeyman in minor league basketball, including the Memphis Rockers, the Memphis Hot Shots and the Memphis Fire, where he also served as coach.

He also was a minister and his maturity, eloquence and grace showed during Jones’ service. With a group that included Pippen, McClain was selected by the players to be the spokesman for the team.

He rose to the occasion.

As he looked over the crowd in packed First United Methodist Church in Conway, McClain noted, "I see a family knitted together in love."

From the way he performed during his playing days, many of us were pleasantly surprised, even awed. McClain was not the person then you would expect now to be so comfortable and graceful in the pulpit and to quote Paul and talk about the many facets of love, which he did so beautifully.

McClain seemed to be channeling his tenacity to becoming a positive role model and change agent for young people in the Memphis area.

Now, suddenly, he’s gone.

Some things you can’t explain. Some things you don’t want to try.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at or 505-1235)