Alcoa mourns loss of Hall of Fame coach Dalton

Former Alcoa coach James “Punky” Dalton is accompanied by former Tornado and fellow inductee Todd Upton at the 2008 Blount County Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

Photo by Paul Miller

Former Alcoa coach James “Punky” Dalton is accompanied by former Tornado and fellow inductee Todd Upton at the 2008 Blount County Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

Many still regard the 1989 Alcoa Tornadoes as the finest team the school has ever fielded. Monday, a team that sent two players all the way to the NFL and one to the Super Bowl, lost its Hall of Fame coach.

James Perry “Punky” Dalton was clearing snow at his Alcoa home on Monday, suffered a heart attack and passed away. He was 62.

Dalton is survived by wife, Julie, and children, Chad Dalton, Megan Roberts and Josh Dalton. Services are scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 13, in McCammon-Ammons-Click Funeral Home Chapel at 4 p.m. The Rev. Joe Green will officiate. In lieu of flowers, the family request friends donate to the Alcoa First United Methodist Building Fund.

The loss of the former coach and athletics director left the Alcoa community in a deep sense of mourning. Dalton led the Tornadoes on one of the winningest runs in school history in the late 1980s, culminating in a 1989 state championship, Alcoa’s fourth. Two players from that team, receiver Billy Williams (St. Louis Cardinals) and tight end Shannon Mitchell (San Diego Chargers) would reach the NFL, with Mitchell making it all the way to the Super Bowl with the Chargers.

Dalton was a memorable coach and administrator, former Alcoa principal Clint Abbott said. He was an even better friend.

“He was a dear friend of mine in a lot of ways,” Abbott said. “He had a great rapport with kids. He could be hard on them, and they still loved him. They felt like they could go to him and talk about problems, not just football.”

Dalton lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Everett High. He earned college degrees at East Tennessee State, Union College and Tennessee Tech.

He coached at Eagleton Junior High from 1971-76. His girls’ basketball teams at Eagleton won six straight county championships. He was head coach of Eagleton football from 1967-68 and finished with an 18-6 record.

He was defensive coordinator at Alcoa High from 1979 through 1982 and was head coach from 1982 through 1992 and in 2002, finishing with a record of 93-32.

In 1989, he was the Tennessee high school coach of the year. Dalton was athletics director at Alcoa from 1993 through 1999 and head coach of the Tennessee All-State Team in 1989. He was the Alcoa baseball coach from 1999-2001 and had a 46-32 record.

In 2008, Dalton was inducted into the Blount County Sports Hall of Fame.

“We’ve known each other since high school,” said former Alcoa coach Ron Phelps, who served as assistant with Dalton on the Tornado staff. “We just kind of grew up together in Blount County and played sports against each other. I just realized what a good friend he was through the years.”

Tornado athletics director Josh Stephens said the Alcoa community deeply mourns Dalton’s loss.

“He influenced a lot of students and athletes, both on the playing field and in the classroom,” Stephens said. “He was Alcoa, through and through.”

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