Serving as an athletics manager and trainer for Alabama for 34 years, Henry “Sang” Lyda devoted almost half of his life to the University of Alabama. Lyda passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 75, and the amount in which he influenced student-athletes over the decades is immeasurable.
“Sang never met a stranger,” Gary White said. “He could be around someone for a minute, and when he left they would be friends.”
White was the head football manager from 1959-61 under Coach Bear Bryant and retired as associate athletic director of the university in 1995. White attended high school with Lyda in Gadsden and brought him to Tuscaloosa in 1959, beginning his involvement as assistant football manager.
“He helped do it all because they didn’t have trainers for every sport back then,” White said. “He had the student-athletes best interests at heart. The players believed in his ability to help mend them.”
While at UA, Lyda was a part of six football national championships, four SEC basketball titles and five SEC basketball tournament titles. He served as a trainer during 13 NCAA basketball tournaments including six “Sweet 16” teams and two teams that reached the Final Four in 1973 and 1978. He retired in 1995 and was inducted into the Alabama Athletic Trainer’s Association Hall of Fame in 1998.
After retirement, he moved to Orange Beach where he enjoyed his life for the past 20 years and returned to Tuscaloosa regularly for reunions and athletic events.
“I had the pleasure of meeting Sang at one of our letterman reunion events last summer and was looking forward to getting to know him,” Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson said. “Sang worked under the likes of C.M. Newton and Wimp Sanderson, and was a valuable key to the success of our men’s basketball program during those years.”
Sanderson was an assistant coach at Alabama from 1961-81 and head coach from 1981-92, working closely with Lyda ever since he was a student.
“He was a friend to all the players,” Sanderson said. He decided whether they could play or not, and wouldn’t play them unless they were well enough to play. He was a guy that the players loved and respected and he enjoyed working with them. He set a great example, and he’ll truly be missed.”