LEES CREEK — “Hey, brother, what are you doing here?”
“Then, after that, a hug, and ‘the game’s over here.’ It would’ve been good.”
“They were Astros and they were close.”
Those were some of the recollections and thoughts of the reunion for Jeff Craycraft and Jim Marsh in heaven.
East Clinton Local Schools suffered its second unimaginable loss in as many months with the passing of EC Athletic Director and Assistant Principal Jim Marsh, a 1981 graduate of Hillsboro High School. EC girls basketball coach Jeff Craycraft died suddenly Oct. 27.
“I’m still in shock over it really. It’s hard to believe we lost him and what we went through at the very end of October losing Jeff, so it’s just hard to put anything into words, to tell you the truth,” said Bill Bean, a former EC athletic director and current girls basketball coach. “Jim was good to the kids and did a lot for the kids. He knew sports were important; they’ll miss that.”
EC Principal Michael Adams, who announced the news of Marsh’s death and asked for a moment of silence before the Astros’ boys game versus Fayetteville-Perry Saturday, remembered Marsh as a champion for all things East Clinton.
“Jim was always here for the students. He was always proud of our students,” Adams said. “One of the recent memories was presenting at a board meeting what our students’ GPAs were and the pride he had for their grades and academics. He really stressed that academic honor piece. Any time you would hear him talk about our students, it was to the moon and back. It was always very positive. He was proud to represent East Clinton in any way he could.”
East Clinton Local Schools Superintendent Eric Magee, a Fairfield High School graduate, called the Marsh the biggest advocate for EC’s student-athletes.
“Whether that was addressing the board or a vote at league meetings, he was voting for what was best for his athletes and his students. He probably was the biggest cheerleader, besides a parent, these kids had,” Magee said. “Nobody spent more time in this building over the last nine or 10 years than he has. He’ll be missed.”
“Mr. Marsh will leave a legacy,” Magee posted in a tribute to Marsh on the district’ Facebook page Saturday. “He has impacted the lives of many students and student-athletes. As a coach, he stressed life lessons. I heard him deliver several lessons on facing adversity as many of our athletes have had to deal with tough issues over the last many years.
“Today, Astro Nation and beyond, we mourn the loss of Jim Marsh. As we remember and celebrate his impact, be intentional about your mindset and your approach to life.”
For EC football coach Steve Olds and EC boys basketball coach Phil Shori, they were appreciative of the opportunity to be head coaches Marsh helped give them, and then being there to lend advice.
“I’m grateful. Mr. Marsh was one of my biggest supporters. He gave me my first chance to be a head coach. He was supportive from the get-go,” Olds said. “Just being able to go down to his office, to get advice, to just be available, we’ll miss that.
“He was just a great guy. For as long as I’ve known him, it’s always been ‘whatever we have to do to make sure the kids have what they need.’ He’ll be missed around here.”
Shori said from the first interview for his job he always had the feeling that Marsh always believed in him.
“When I first took this job, I didn’t know if I was ready for it,” Shori said of his first head coaching stint. “I was 23. It was just his belief in me that made me think, ‘You know what? I can do this.’ He showed he believed in me. I’m going to miss him. He was a great mentor. He was awesome.”
Former EC boys basketball coach and current Blanchester boys basketball head coach Adam Weber felt the same way when describing Marsh’s role as a mentor in his life.
Weber, during his time at Wilmington College, worked out with the football team during the offseason. That was where he became friends with Marsh, who was on the coaching staff of the Quakers.
“They were always trying to talk me into playing DB or safety,” Weber said. “Marsh always treated me like one of his guys.”
They were reunited when Weber was the boys basketball coach at East Clinton after Marsh took over as director of athletics.
“That man mentored me. He was one of the kindest men. We spent a lot of time discussing life, players, things that you don’t think a coach and athletic director would talk about,” Weber said. “He’s going to be greatly missed.”
Shawn Robinson covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @twinzdad01.