Former Grove Basketball Players Honor
Coach Charles Homer Spain
|Several months ago some 20
erstwhile members of former Grove High School Coach Charles Homer Spain's former Blue
Devil basketball players treated him to a surprise fish cookout at Kentucky Lake. Some of
Spain's Blue Devils came from as far as California and Kansas especially to honor their
Most of the former cagers had helped Spain, a former Clarksburg High standout, reach the TSSAA state tournament on two occasions, 1956-1958.
Spain was the second Grove coach to lead the Blue Devils to the (then) coveted "Sweet Sixteen." All purpose coaching legend Bob Jelks had also taken boys cage teams to the state. The only other Henry County high school boys team to reach the state, was the 1952 Puryear High School Hornets team coached by Rupert Williams.
Three former county high school sextets also joined the states best in big tournaments. Grove, Henry and Buchanan each went on a couple of occasions. Buchanan came within an eyelash of winning it all in the 1960s.
All seven high schools were consolidated into Henry County High in 1969. The consolidated school has never had a basketball team, girl or boys, to make the state tournament. Ouch!
Former PSSD school board member, Jack Nichols, was one of the Blue Devils instrumental in organizing the surprise reception for Spain, but Jack had lots of help from Frank Cate who now lives in Santa Anna, California.
"After watching all the years as our hair lines turned thinner and our waist lines spread wider, it suddenly occurred that we hadnt done much to show Coach Spain how we appreciated what he did for all of us," explained Nichols.
When we went out for basketball at Grove in the 1950s, so much was at the critical stage. "The head football coach was the head boys basketball coach and his hands were full in coaching the football team.
"Mr. (Dwight) Norman was principal and put out the word that he desperately needed a basketball coach who could devote full time to the sport."
Spain who had just finished a stellar hardwood career at Union University, was tabbed by Norman." I remember Coach Spain took us to the gym the first thing and ran us through some kind of drill he called some country-type crip shoot-out."
Nichols recalled one of Spains early Grove teams finished 30-5 for the season. "Another time we started the season at 21-0 and wouldnt you know, we lost to Big Sandy."
Nichols remembered he once paid a price for being so good.
"We were playing at Cottage Grove one night and Cottage Grove just couldnt get anything going, although they really tried hard.
"At half-time we had to pass the Cottage Grove cheering section and all of a sudden this woman grabbed my shoulders and started shaking me violently.
"We just don't appreciate you boys coming out from the big city and beating our boys up," the lady said.
One of his former players summarized the relationship: " The first day you met us you challenged us and promised to make us winners. You added there would be a price to pay and perhaps everyone was not willing to pay.
"Twenty-three boys were present that first day; only eleven showed up the second day.
But you were true to your word, you took those eleven boys and started a journey."
The following excerpts are included from some of the Spains Blue Devils:
- Carney W. Murphy - "As I told you one morning at the Huddle House, You and my brother were the two people that had the most impact in my life."
- Maurice Field - " My experiences with basketball and the chance to play under you are significant. I obtained the will to want to coach."
- Paul Veazey - "Being one of your boys also provided me a sense of security. No matter the location, the hour or the need, I always knew that my coach was there."
- Jerald Hill - "I found out there was more to the game than shooting basketball. (Coach Spain) taught us to be winners and not quitters."
- Jack Nichols - "The trait I cherish the most is you taught me the true meaning of being a friend, for that I will always be indebted."
- Bobby Underwood - " Thanks to you I was an outstanding player during my 20 years in the U.S. Navy."
- Frank Cate - "As the years have gone by and we have come to know each other on a more intimate basis, it has made for an even greater appreciation of the man you are."
- Mickey Norman - "You taught me a lot about basketball and life. It seems that the five-man break and early season blisters made me tougher physically and emotionally."
- Bill Moody - "We learned the fundamentals and how to play, many things we learned helped us to never be the same."
- Bob Cathey - " I cannot thank you enough for giving me guidance, had it not been for you Id quit school."
- Ed Tayloe - "For me to put in words what effect you have had on my life would be difficult.
Jim "Spider" Dumas of Paris writes news and features part-time for the Post-Intelligencer.
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