BL:… then Cowboy Joe West pulled out a fork

NCSHoF
BobLee
May09/ 2018

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… then Cowboy Joe West pulled out a fork

I have attended too many sports/Hall of Fame banquets over the years.  Root canal surgery can be more better.  They can too oft be fraught with the twin perils of boredom and bad taste.

In preparation for last Friday night’s annual North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame shindig, I concentrated on the pleasant anticipation of seeing “old friends” gathering to honor our beloved “Coach Jones”… a 2018 posthumous inductee into the NCSHoF.

The “seeing old friends” was the pleasure it always is, but, by golly, the banquet itself was amazingly well-done. By far the most pleasant of the dozens of similar shindigs I have attended over the years.

Well-deserved KUDOS to the NCSHoF officials who recognized the logistical perils lurking in any such event where an open microphone is given to anyone unaware of the responsibilities therein… and with no innate sense of how long “just 5-8 minutes” is.

Apt comparisons would be (1) giving an uncapped magic marker to a 2 year-old… (2) trying to clip a cat claws by oneself… (3) voting for a political candidate who does not note his/her party affiliation in their mailers.

Friday night… the video and audio worked… the meal was fine… the assembled 1,300 were well-behaved… only one inductee “got political” noting how glad he is that sexual predators have access to women’s rest rooms in NC… the only inductee that used humor – MLB Umpire “Cowboy Joe” West – knew what he was doing and “did it” very well.

The NCSHoF has been doing this for 50-some years. It gets criticized for all the reasons any “Hall of Fame” gets criticized… you don’t agree with who got in and/or who didn’t especially if “didn’t” is you or someone you know and like. NCSHOF

The NCSHoF induction criteria is ambiguously specific or specifically ambiguous. “Controversy” is to a Hall of Fame what garlic is to cooking… some is good. Too much can be too much. The NCSHoF seems OK in that regard.

This year’s 15 inductees included one of NC’s three speed skaters (?) and a woman who surfs and owns a popular grocery store in Morehead City.

The current President of The NCSHoF is NC State’s legendary pitbull Nora Lynn Finch. Ms Finch exudes “no-nonsense” and a “because I said so… end of discussion” administrative persona. I think that is just fine as opposed to the more traditional “good ol’ boy” style. … Enough about that.

About 25 or so of my “grew up with” guys and gals gathered for the induction of our high school basketball coach – “Coach Jones”. His full name was Coach Paul Jones. If any of us ever referred to him as “Paul” none of us would know who they were talking about.

When he made his permanent and most positive impact on our lives we were all teenagers and he was in his early-mid 30s. Now we are twice as old as he was then. He was handsome with a Hallmark card family and possessed all the admirable qualities one could ever imagine in an adult role model for “young people”.

In this era of clay-footed role models… Coach Paul Jones – over 76 years – NEVER, to my knowledge, revealed any aspect of his personality or personal life that was less than exemplary.

Try living your life for 50 years as a “everybody knows him/her” in a small town of 20,000… and do so “exemplary”. THAT is as deserving of “honor” as any sports accomplishment.

“Coach” passed away in 2009 from pulmonary fibrosis. He won over 660 Basketball games over a 38-year career all in Kinston.

Of the 1,300 people at Friday’s event, I suppose “maybe” 50 knew anything about “our Coach Jones” beyond what appeared in the printed program.

I cogitated about that through the night’s festivities. Of the 15 inductees, I had heard of maybe 10 to the degree I could say “Oh, she was an LPGA golfer (Donna Andrews)”… “he was a UNC/MLB pitcher (Scott Bankhead)”… “he was a wide receiver at Duke (Wes Chesson)”… etc.

The other five… I had no clue. But there were friends and family on-hand that knew them and knew of their achievements… that was/is “a good thing”.

I was chatting with “one of us” as we found our seats. “Steve” was saying how deserving Coach Jones was of this honor… and how it was “long-overdue”. I certainly concurred but added in the context of the sports history of the entire state, Coach Jones’ impact was primarily within our community… and, more specifically, with our generation.

As the program began, they did the five posthumous inductees first with video clips. They did them alphabetically.

Before they got to “J” they did “Jack Holley”. Coach Jack Holley coached high school football in North Carolina for 46 years. He won a whole lot of games and championships at 4-5 small towns across the state. I had never heard of him… and I’m pretty good about “hearing about” anyone of note.

I turned to my friend Steve. “I’ve never heard of him… have you?” Steve shook his head…

“He was someone’s Coach Jones.” I said.

Does being in a Hall of Fame, by definition, imply that one is “Famous”?

Is “Fame” measured solely by mansions and money?

Does defining “Famous” comes down to “the size of the fish” and “the size of the pond”?  Coach Jones was not “Dean” or “K” or Jimmy V”.

I would not pay $150 to attend a banquet to honor them.  I did for Coach Jones… and never considered NOT being on-hand Friday night.

A group of 25 or so men and women, all of whom are now older than we ever imagined we would ever be, gathered in Raleigh to commune… to honor a man who positively impacted our lives directly for 3-4 years over 50 years ago.

NOTE: Our basketball teams went 51-1 over two years with back-to-back State Championships.  Two earlier teams had been runners-up.  I don’t think that success was what we were honoring.

3-4 of our group had remained in Kinston over the years. The rest of us left for parts near and far to raise our families and make our marks and live our lives. “Keeping in touch” has been via reunions and “running into…” happenstances.

Those opportunities are dwindling down.

There is no one in “my home town” group that I “don’t like”. Not a single one. I can’t say that about everyone I’ve ever met for sure. I don’t live near any of them nor do I socialize with any of them on a regular basis. Maybe “familiarity would breed contempt” but I don’t have to be concerned about that.

With a couple of exceptions, I don’t know their “politics”. With those exceptions it is absolutely inconsequential. Can’t say THAT much anymore.

Was “Coach Jones” special? Is “our group” special?

“Coach Jones” was certainly special to us… and the collective “we” are special enough to one another that we all got together last Friday night.

Is it all attributable to Kinston’s World Famous Pure Artesian Well Water? … or all of the above.

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BobLee… what about Umpire “Cowboy Joe” West and the silverware? You had to “be there” to understand.

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David French
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David French

Great analysis of the event. I was a member of GHS Class of 1967 Basketball Team & I can say without hesitation playing for Coach Jones was one of the highlights of my life. I will never forget & will be eternally grateful for what he did for me as a person, a teacher & a coach. A very much deserved recognition for a great man & leader who made all of us who were blessed to be influenced by “Coach” better.

Jo.Bo
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Jo.Bo

Just read through some of the comments from your post “… then Cowboy Joe West pulled out a fork” on BOBLEE SAYS. About your reply to Doug regarding the state baseball championship: You are correct that it was just 1967; However, neither Mike Baker nor Ted Gaskins were members of that team. Ted had graduated in 1966 (had one of those curiously placed DOB’s); and, Mike had gone to attend a “prep school” so that he could play football in his senior year — he did not attend GHS in the 1966-1967 school year (if you’re interested, I’ll tell you… Read more »

The Expatriate
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I believe you are right, especially about them being after my time as resident of Goldsie. I am n ow older than dirt but still meeting good people and learning stuff in This Alien Land I now call home.

CNR
Guest
CNR

About time Coach Paul Jones is among those enshrined. Jack Holley is a coach whom I met in Tabor City over half a century ago. Jack is absolutely deserving of the honor. . In point of fact I met him the same week I met Coach Jones. That would be the week of the famous game in nineteen hundred and sixty-five between New Bern and Grainger at Kinston. That would have been when we had to have passed often in the hallowed halls of your halcyon years. . I recall your writing about your feelings for Bill Bunting and the… Read more »

The Expatriate
Guest

Coach Norris Jeffrey at Goldsboro High School and later in Badin is a long-lingering influence for a lot of us. I was at East Carolina with Paul Jones, a cherished friend a member of the best basketball team ECU has ever had (22-2 in 1953-1954) and for which Norwood Talton and I were managers. The coach, Howard Porter, no doubt had a great influence on Paul’s grasp of what “coach” means.

Cuz
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Cuz

Well, I was there also. Coach Jones was good. Was there primarily for one of the posthumous guys CHRIS CAMMACK, THe N C State baseball player, Who led the ACC in hitting for 4 years. My good friend from Fayetteville. A great guy. Died at about age 62. We sat at one of the front tables. George Whitfield was with us. Had a great time too. Cuz

Porgie
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Porgie

Echoing the comments of my bride below, what a great event. As always, it was great to see everyone and missed those who could not make it at the last minute. Having lived in Reidsville now for 47+ years, there are a couple of other legends in this area, W. A. Wall and Hoy Isaacs, both of whom won over 600 games in coaching high school basketball at Rockingham County and Reidsville. Lived in the same neighbor with both. I found both their names along with Coach Jones on the list of winningest coaches by state at the Basketball HOF… Read more »

Cobb Turner
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I attended S. Lenoir. However Coach Jones was my American Legion coach 1967-70. He was a great coach and an even greater mentor and role model . . . always helping, always ‘coaching’, always positive, and a natural builder of young men. I’m sorry I was unable to attended his induction.

Old Alpha Wolf
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Old Alpha Wolf

My Coach Jones was Bloise Grissom, at Elkin about whom you may have heard.

Doug
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Doug

Reply to BobLee: Just confirmed.I stand corrected. It was just 1967.

Doug
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Doug

If my memory hasn’t completely gone to pasture, Coach Jones also won back-to-back state championships in baseball. 1967 & 1968. I know for sure GHS won it in Leo’s senior year (67′) and “pretty sure” about 68′. And everyone interested in Duke-UNC football remembers the Hart-Chesson shoestring play.

Mary Ella Pollock
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Mary Ella Pollock

Okay “old home town friend”, unlike you I had never attended one of ‘these” athletic galas unless you count the Pep Club banquets we had at our beloved Grainger High School where our dear Coach Jones was always present. I found the NCHOF event enjoyable and informative even though I went wondering what in the world it would be like. As great as it was to honor Coach, it was even greater to be with those who admired and loved him. As you have said, all our crowd just enjoys being together and celebrating who we are and where we… Read more »

Chuck Vipperman
Guest

I was blessed to have several “Coach Joneses” growing up playing football and baseball.

Good stuff!

ENC1
Guest
ENC1

Never played for Coach Jones but growing up and playing HS basketball I knew who he was and how much my HS coaches thought of him. Taking a job in Kinston after college got to know Coach Jones and his children, great family!!!
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Yes there are many schools across this state and country that are/were lucky to have a Coach Jones….I just hope we have people like you that keep writing about them.

John Council
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BL
I have enjoyed your site for some time without posting anything. Seems we share the same mind on many subjects. I did want to comment on Jack Holley. “Coach Holley” is/was a high school football legend in the eastern part of the state. For many former players, he was our Coach Jones. Someone who impacts your life still… although most of the imprint was made 45 + years ago.
He was “a good egg” as they say.
JC