Glancing through news releases last week I came across at email from the Ohio High School Athletic Association. Such news releases do not often have much to do with Highland County, but this particular one did. Reading down through the release I was pleasantly surprised when I came across the name of the late Dave Young, who had been selected as a recipient of the OHSAA Meritorious Service Award.
It was recognition long overdue for a man whose teams won 403 high school basketball games, and who had been done a disservice by the OHSAA many years before.
For those of you who did not know Dave, he was a longtime Hillsboro resident who coached two years of varsity boys basketball at Whiteoak High School, one year at Minford and 24 years at North Adams, compiling an impressive record of 403-189.
Dave Young is remembered by those who knew him best for much more than the number of basketball games he won or lost. But that does not change the fact that his team was robbed of a win in the 1996 Division III state semifinals —a fact that has been recognized many times.
Young’s North Adams Devils had a sizeable lead late in the fourth quarter of that game but had squandered it away. The Devils hit two free throws with 3.3 seconds left in the game to go back on top, 66-65. After a timeout, Casstown Miami East in-bounded the ball to a player that streaked down the court and launched a one-handed shot a step or so behind the three-point line as the buzzer sounded. It went through the hoop, and was counted, for an improbable 68-66 victory.
The North Adams faithful that had been roaring seconds before fell silent. The Casstown fans erupted.
But there was a problem. I was sitting on the baseline under the North Adams basket that day at St. John Arena in Columbus, and I had a perfect view of the Casstown player running toward the other end of the court before he launched his fateful shot. I watched the replay over again just a couple days ago. When the final buzzer sounded, the ball was no higher than the chest of the player who let it fly when the buzzer went off. In other words, he had clearly not released the ball before time on the clock expired.
The shot should not have counted, and North Adams should have played in the state championship game that Casstown went on to win, 58-53, over Archbold. But things do not always turn out like they should.
Dave could have been bitter after such a heart-wrenching loss. He could have pouted. He could have let it eat at him inside. But instead he moved on. There were, after all, more kids to teach and coach, more games to win, more battles to be fought.
I do not know where I first met Dave Young, and although I never knew him all that well, I knew him well enough. Some had their issues with him, but I never did. Like so many of those kids he taught and coached, what he was to me was someone who helped me along life’s way.
We likely first met as teammates on a slo-pitch softball team composed mostly of high school coaches from around the area. I was not a coach, but I was a friend of the softball team’s coach, so I was asked to play with them. We were by no means an outstanding team, but we did qualify for the state tournament one year. Since the state tournament was in Zanesville and lasted more than one day, we had to reserve hotel rooms for the weekend. Some of us had wives or girlfriends that went along.
My girlfriend (now my wife) was with us. We were supposed to share a room with another couple. But the female half of the couple we were supposed to share a room with was shy and wanted a private room, so my girlfriend and I had to share a room with Dave Young and Jerry Williams. We were the youngest two on the trip, not married at the time, and did not know exactly how to respond when we were told we’d be sharing a room with two other guys. But Dave and Jerry went out of their way to make us feel comfortable, and we had a great weekend despite not winning many games.
Not long after that — or maybe about the same time — Dave landed the boys basketball coaching job at Whiteoak. I was a young sports reporter at this paper, and I talked to him many times after his games. He was always gracious with his time, and never refused to talk no matter how bitter the outcome of a game may have been.
A few years later I was working at the Greenfield Daily Times and Dave was coaching at North Adams. He knew I was at least somewhat handy with a camera, gave me a call one day, and asked if I’d be interested in taking pictures for the school’s basketball program. I picked up a few extra bucks, he got a good price on the photography, and it worked well a couple years for both of us.
More years passed and a brother and I were breaking into the basketball officiating business. Somehow Dave found out we were officiating and hooked us up with many freshman/reserve games at North Adams. It was good for us, and it must have been OK for him, because he kept asking us back.
Sadly, Dave passed away in 2012 at the not-old-enough age of 57. But I am reminded of him often since his wife, Nancy, has been my father’s next door neighbor for several years.
It is always good to ponder back on those times I shared with Dave. It was good to see that Nancy, along with other family members and friends, were able to accept Dave’s award last weekend at the state tournament.
It was an award long overdue and more than deserved.
Everyone makes mistakes. We are, after all, human. But last weekend the OHSAA got it right with its decision to honor Dave Young, a man who gave much to many.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.