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Long before Glen Drury had won 386 high school basketball games and taken two teams to the Sweet 16, Kent Stevens knew why Drury would be recognized as one of Kentucky's best.
“He came early and stayed late,” Stevens said during Cat Madness festivities Saturday night.
It had been 24 years and six days since Stevens had been on hand to watch Drury win his first game as a varsity coach. He was part of the crowd that erupted into a prolonged standing ovation as Anderson County Schools' superintendent Kim Shaw decreed that the basketball floor at Anderson County High School would be forever known as Glen Drury Court.
As principal at Western High School and needing someone to replace veteran coach Paul Watts back in 1985, Stevens gave Drury a chance.
“I knew Glen would be a good teacher and a good role model for the kids,” said Stevens, now a state representative.
The Eagles won that first game over Evangel (61-50 for those keeping score), but Western, with fewer than 150 students in the school, was usually overmatched.
Drury won just eight games and lost 34 in two years at Western but scared the bejeebers out of some bigger schools and pulled one of the state's biggest upsets of the 1987 season when it slipped by Frankfort, a team that had been in and out of the state's Top 25.
Drury left for Anderson later that year, but he and Stevens have remained close.
“He deserves this,” Stevens said.
Ron Reed was there Saturday night. Now retired after 43 years of coaching, Reed drove down from his Ashland home to pay tribute to one of his favorite pupils.
The Bearcat head coach for three seasons, Reed saw the trait that now defines Anderson basketball. “Glen's would never be beaten,” Reed said.
He still chuckles at Drury's cobativeness. It happened in Louisville in 1977, Drury's senior season, against top-ranked Ballard.
“Glen was guarding (future All-American and NBA player) Jeff Lamp. Glen had four fouls on him in the first half and I was on the official about it,” Reed remembered. “He told me, 'Your player is manhandling him.'”
Reed broke into a huge grin.
“Glen was about 5-foot-6 and weighed about 130 pounds. Lamp was 6-6 and ended up being Mr. Basketball.”
You also knew Will Carlton would be there Saturday night.
After all, It was Carlton who requested that the Board of Education approve the name change “on behalf of hundreds, almost thousands, of players” who had been influenced by Drury.
Carlton might have been a 6-8 version of his coach. A scrapper, Carlton is the school's all-time leading rebounder. He played a year at Utah before transferring to Georgetown College, where he was the NAIA national player of the year.
Like Drury, he puts a face on the term “overachiever.”
Carlton also served as a coach with Drury for several years. Coming early and staying late was a given.
“I always knew how much time he put in, so that didn't surprise me,” Carlton says. “What did surprise me was his knowledge of the game. I had played in college and overseas and had been a high school assistant for two years, so I thought I knew the game. After being around Coach, I realized I didn't know near what I thought I did.”
Carlton played for and coached with someone that refused to accept defeat, whether on the court or in the classroom.
“Coach has a burning desire to do whatever he is doing the best of his ability and also do it the right way. If you have never been around him for an extended period of time, I can't begin to describe how hard he works. The man doesn't tire out.”
Even though he left Drury's staff, Carlton has remained close to the only person he simply calls “Coach.”
“We talk about my golf team and family,” he says. “We have been talking about his father alot lately and his battle with cancer. ...The man helped mold and shape me into the person I am today.That is a bond that goes beyond any success we have had together in the basketball arena.”
Obviously, Glen Drury was there for Cat Madness. He never suspected the surprise announcement, even though he saw some of about 100 former Bearcats that came to honor their coach.
“I would run into one of them and I was just so glad to see them. I didn't think a thing about it,” Drury said after his team had been impressive in a scrimmage win over North Bullitt.
It's vintage Drury, deferring to his players.
In an age when coaches, some even at the high school level, are embroiled in scandal, Drury remains the bedrock of integrity.
But throw the ball up and his teams are going to get after you, just like the guy that “manhandled” Jeff Lamp.
“His teams have more talent than we did but they are like Glen,” Reed said.
Drury has also won just about every individual award a coach can have, yet puts in 12- to 16-hour days just like he did at Western High School.
“He's still the same,” Stevens smiled.
And the life lessons Drury preaches go far beyond the scoreboard. “Coach provides an example of how to live your life the right way and have a good time doing it,” Carlton said. “He has used that court as his pulpit for many years, so I see no better way to honor him than to name it for him.”
That Drury name will no longer just arrive early and stay late at Anderson County.
It will be at Anderson County High School 24 hours a day.
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.