Coach John Preece was a legend in this area, but especially in the Kermit community.
This weekend the annual John Preece Shootout is being held at Tug Valley High School in honor of the late coach.
“You know, growing up as a basketball gym rat and daughter of a coach – it was awesome, yet hard at times,” said Tammy Preece Hodge, the eldest daughter of coach Preece. “I have so many memories of people that were connected to my childhood as a result of my dad coaching. They just don’t make people like that anymore.”
“I can remember loving it when my sister and I got to be around Sid Copley. We absolutely loved him, he was so funny and kind. Jim Keatley and Bob Hurley are two of my favorites. Dad and they officiated together for many years and truly what a crew they were.”
Others Preece officiated with were Grant Preece and Danny Browning.
John Preece not only was a successful basketball coach for the Kermit Blue Devils, he was also a longtime football and basketball official in West Virginia.
“Dad was a successful coach and a good man if he liked you,” Hodge said with a laugh. “I am most proud of the fact that he instilled obtaining an education to his former players. As you know, as a whole, that 1975 team is probably more successful and educated for the school’s size than any around.”
One of those former players is Dr. J.W. Endicott, who came back to Kermit to practice medicine, and has also been a longtime girls coach at Kermit and Tug Valley.
“Coach John C. Preece, was a fierce competitor. He hated losing at anything, especially basketball. He instilled in his players a strong desire to compete and succeed,” Endicott, who was an all-state point guard for Preece, said. “That work ethic has helped me, and many of my teammates, to succeed in life and be good citizens.”
Three members of the 1975 Kermit state championship team became physicians, Endicott, John Carey and Bruce Hensley. Another, Charles Patrick, got his doctorate degree, and currently works at Penn State University.”
“He was ‘old school’, and I am too. He stressed fundamentals, hard work, great conditioning, tough defense, rebounding, and unselfish team play,” Endicott said of Preece. “We were fortunate to have him as our coach at Kermit Junior High, where we won Kermit’s first county championship in 1972, and as seniors in 1975 we won our school’s second Class A State Championship.”
The starting five team members were Endicott, Barry Richardson, Bruce Hensley, Manuel Rose and Guy Dillon, with Keith Brumfield coming off the bench. “I didn’t completely understand how good a coach he was until much later in life when I started coaching girls’ basketball. He taught us to never quit or give in, and that to be the best, you had to be willing to outwork your opponents and be better prepared,” Endicott added.
“We always responded to his pressure. So, in the championship game in 1975 against Piedmont High School, after scoring only one point in the second quarter (but still leading at halftime 17-15), Coach Preece gave us one of his patented enthusiastic halftime ‘pep’ talks. We responded by only allowing Piedmont to score four points in the third quarter and won the game 48-37,” Endicott recalls.
Kermit returned to the state tournament again in 1976.
“He knew how to get the most and the best out of his players. I, along with many of my former teammates felt privileged to have played for him. We are better people for having known him,” Endicott added. “His life ended way too soon. He is survived by his wife, Susannah Preece, and his daughters Tammy and Anne, who have always sponsored this tournament in his honor and memory. The Tug Valley girls’ basketball program greatly appreciates their hard work and support of basketball at Tug Valley High School.”
“If they weren’t planning on furthering their education, he always told them to be the best at whatever they chose,” Tammy Hodge said of her father’s influence on his former players. “I can remember one of his favorite sayings that we used to hear ‘If your job is to pick up trash, then pick up more trash than anyone.’ He was a very competitive guy, and I picked that up from his as well. That hasn’t always been good for me, but I am my father’s daughter in many, many ways!”
“Yes, indeed he influenced several students at Kermit - including me. He loved his job as summer recreation director in the county as well, in particular he was fond of Doug Ward. I remember him speaking of that summer job a lot,” Hodge added.
“He would be so proud of J.W., Bruce (Hensley), John (Carey) and Charles (Patrick) for the successful men they have become. Well, and Guy Dillon too, as he is an administrator with Mingo County Schools system. I really feel they are a testament for one thing that my dad felt so strongly about - education. He thought that was the key to everything.”
Preece has two grandchildren, Kacyn Johnann Horn and McCain Preece Lucas, which are his namesakes.
Many people have fond memories of John Preece. His legacy continues in Mingo County, especially for those students whose lives he touched many years ago.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)