While attending the banquet Tuesday evening (March 12) to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the West Virginia Boys State High School Basketball Tournament, I looked around the room filled with around 800 people and saw an abundance of friends.
Countless memories soared through my mind.
Many of these friends have been made through the tournament and sports in general.
While growing up in West Virginia, I actually didn't begin going to the tournament until 1984.
My first full-time broadcasting job out of college for a Huntington radio station is what led me to that 1984 tournament. It is where I had the chance to meet and interview coaches like Don Nuckols and the late Jim Lilly. Gentlemen who became my friends in later years.
Although I never attended the tournament in my younger days, being an avid reader of newspapers kept me up on all the happenings of the championship action from the early 1970s until that '84 event.
Once there in person, it didn't take me long to realize just how special the tournament was. There have been a lot of changes, but it is still a must-see for me each year.
While my job has me dashing in and out of the Civic Center Coliseum during tournament time, it's still great to catch the action while catching up with old friends.
With the exception of former Clarksburg Washington Irving star Jeff Schneider, all of Tuesday evening's speakers are individuals I have gotten to know personally through the years.
It is my hope to meet and chat with Schneider this week. He was involved in the great 1977 Class AAA with Logan's Vic Herbert in the title game.
Herbert, by the way, is at the tournament as South Charleston's head coach. It is his hope to lead SC to a state title in Class AAA.
Others recognized during the evening were the likes of coaching greats Lewis D'Antoni, Fred Aldridge, Nuckols, Tex Williams and countless others.
Probably the story that really intrigued me while growing up and following the State Tournament was the incredible national-record setting run of the Northfork Blue Demons. The late Jennings Boyd led the McDowell County school to eight consecutive Class AA titles and nine overall.
When I took a television job in southern West Virginia, one of my first missions was to go and do a story on Boyd. The soft-spoken Boyd was actually coaching at Bluefield when I first got to that part of the state.
It was a few basketball seasons after his stint in Bluefield when I went to Boyd's house, located along the train tracks, and enjoyed a nice visit of more than hour. We drank coffee and reminisced about an unbelievable era of basketball for the state.
Boyd died of cancer a few years ago. His wonderful wife, Pat, was recognized at the banquet on Tuesday night.
I told someone that we could have taken our camera and microphone around to the countless tables in the banquet hall and done interviews until the wee hours of the morning.
It was a great evening to celebrate such a wonderful event.
An event I look forward to each year. An event that has left me with a treasure chest full of memories and a mile-long list of friends.
(Through the efforts of many, especially West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Assistant Director Butch Powell, a book containing State Tournament history, is on sale at the Civic Center Coliseum. The book is filled with championship team photos, records and much more. If you are a fan of the State Tournament this book is for you.)