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Prep Notebook: Dedication demonstrates York's impact

Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:22 PM

Tributes poured in Friday night for Carl York, former coaching legend at Fairland High School who had the gym named in his honor at halftime of the contest between the Dragons and rival Chesapeake. York's wife, Barbara, and daughters Beverly, Sharon and Linda did the unveiling. When the curtain dropped on the hidden banner, the Fairland gym became known forevermore as the Carl York Center.

Many stories were told at the reception prior to the contest. Room 129 inside the school was filled with former players coached by York, family, fans and friends. York began coaching at Fairland in 1954 and stayed through 1978 when he moved down Ohio 7 to work and coach at South Point.

Jack Harris, who just wrapped up his coaching career at Ashland where he was an assistant football coach, got the tribute train running at the reception. He recalled his first meeting with York when he wanted to come home -- he's a 1970 Fairland alum -- and work for York as an assistant basketball coach. Harris was at Crooksville at the time.

"I said, 'coach, I'd love to be your assistant,' " Harris said. "He said no, head coach. I had no idea I'd get the job. My jaw dropped."

Harris also coached girls basketball and football at Fairland. His overall teaching/coaching tenure spanned 39 years.

"I have coach York to thank for that," Harris said.

Harris and the Dragons met up with the York-led South Point Pointers seven times. They went 1-6, the win coming in sectional play. South Point came into that game 18-0.

"Bittersweet," Harris said in describing his feelings after that game.

Harris, like the other York-coached players, said the former coach and later school principal did more for them than just draw up plays. Harris had some difficult family times growing up and York was there for him.

"I have the greatest respect for that man," Harris said. "He was a father figure. He had a lot to do with what I did in 39 years as a teacher and a coach."

York's overall coaching record was 423-159. He went 321-138 at Fairland with four 20-win seasons, seven Ohio Valley Conference titles, six sectional titles, two district crowns and a regional title. He was named to the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches' Hall of Fame in 1967 and the Naismith Memorial OHSAA Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.

In 1960-61, York had the famous team dubbed "The Untouchables." The Dragons went unbeaten in the regular season and made it to the Class A state tournament where they lost to eventual champion Ayersville in the semifinals. The Pilots won the title game to finish 30-0.

All the starters from the 1961 team attended Friday night. One was Joe Heinz.

"He was a father figure," Heinz said after hugging Carl Bowen, team manager in 1960-61. "He never got mad. He knew the sport, he knew the players, he knew what he could get out of them. That was the best time of my life."

Heinz and his teammates were crushed after the semifinal loss, but York quickly picked up their spirits.

"He said we're going back to watch the finals," Heinz said. "I said, 'Coach, I can't. That's something we should've won.' I then said yes sir. His word was a good as gospel."

Heinz went on to work as an assistant and head coach in basketball.

"As a coach, I patterned myself after him in every way," Heinz said.

The York-coached players headed out to the gym to watch the Dragons battle Chesapeake. The Panthers opened a 17-point lead in the second period, but Fairland came back to win, 63-60. Fans charged the floor to celebrate with the players and coaches.

Donald Capper, who played for York and now is a Lawrence County Municipal Judge, addressed the crowd at the reception and the fans at halftime. He was joined by Gary Salyer, also a former York player who went on to a successful coaching career at Coal Grove and Symmes Valley.

"This needed to be done. It should've been done a long time ago," said Capper, whose brother Eddie played on the 1960-61 team. "Student and players had a lot of respect for him."

The green-and-white Carl York Center banner will suffice for now. A plaque is on the way. It costs $2,300 and Capper said donations would be appreciated.

York, who died in 1994, played at Mullens High School in West Virginia. His basketball coach was Lewis D'Antoni, whose son Mike is a former Marshall University standout and now head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Capper said Lewis D'Antoni wanted to attend, but he just celebrated his 99th birthday on Dec. 31 and a trip at this time would've been difficult.

York went on to Marshall where he started out in football and basketball. An injury cut short his football career, but he went the distance in basketball under legendary coach Cam Henderson.

York's success and the success enjoyed by his players on the court and later in life doesn't come as a surprise to Salyer.

"He knew the game. He knew what to do to be successful," Salyer said during his halftime talk. "Think of the people affected by his philosophy and who patterned their career after him. There were so many sides to this man. His players became even more successful in life. It takes a role model to cause this (gym dedication). He's more than worth the honor we make tonight."

David Walsh is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or dwalsh@herald-dispatch.com.

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