Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

April 22, 2014

Making time for kids

Justice attends fundraiser for Bluefield State

BLUEFIELD, Va. — It is time-consuming enough to coach one high school basketball team, but how about two?

Then add to those responsibilities being the owner of The Greenbrier and one of the nation’s wealthiest men with enough business interests to keep anyone busy.

Well, maybe not that busy.

“The coaching part is easy from the standpoint that I love the game and I love the kids and in the winter we slow down on the hospitality side,” Jim Justice said. “We slow down in our other businesses, especially our farming side so there is time.”

In addition to his multitude of businesses, Justice uses that time to serve as boys and girls basketball coach at Greenbrier East High School in Fairlea. He does it well, leading the Spartans to the 2012 Class AAA girls basketball championship.

Don’t expect any complaints from Justice about his many tasks.

“Naturally I could be doing a lot of other things, but I love it and it is a lot of work, that is for daggum sure,” Justice said. “If you are going to do it, you have got to just lay everything aside and say, ‘I am there for the kids and that is what I am going to do and I am going to do it first class and I am going to do it to the very best of my ability’.”

He knows no other way. If the phone rings during practice, he lets it ring.

“Kids can’t understand, you may have a business call or something like that so you just don’t take them, you just don’t do it,” Justice said. “When I am there it is six days a week there, you are scouting games, it is watching film, and it is doing all this stuff that we all do, but I am really committed to it and I am sincerely serious about it.

“This is not just something where I am out there having fun and hanging out, I am dedicated 100 percent to those kids while I am there.”

Justice was at Fincastle on the Mountain on Tuesday evening, serving as guest speaker at what was being deemed a “A Celebration of Success” for Bluefield State and its athletics program.

“This is a really exciting evening for us,” Bluefield State President Dr. Marsha Krotseng said. “The theme for the evening is ‘The Celebration of Success’. We are celebrating the success of our students and particularly student-athletes and Mr. Justice is the epitome of success and we really appreciate his support for our students and for our programs.”

Justice, who was accompanied by his wife, Cathy, was pleased to be part of the evening, which was also a fundraiser for Bluefield State.

“It is good, it is good from the standpoint, all I really want to be known for is the good things we are able to do in the Virginias,” Justice said. “West Virginia is my home and I surely have a warm spot in my heart for West Virginia.

“What a wonderful fundraiser tonight, really and truly. Bluefield State is just a great school. I had the opportunity to come over here and coach at Bluefield. I had one my kids go to Bluefield State and play for Bluefield State on the girls side just a few years ago.

“I am real familiar with the school, they do so much great work in the area, it is really an honor to be here.”

In a meeting with local media prior to the event, Justice shared a little of what he planned to say to those in attendance, especially the many students who were on hand to listen to his presentation.

“I will talk about a lot of different things, I will almost challenge them to be able to make any sense of what I am saying at all to tell you the truth, but there will be a message in it,” Justice said. “There will really be a message.”

Part of Justice’s coaching technique is what his players call ‘story time’ in which they sit around, listen and learn from each other, and not just about  the game they love so much.

“We sit and we talk about a lot of different things, naturally we talk about the game and our opponents and all that stuff, but we talk about life lesson stuff,” said Justice, who spends upwards of five hours a day for five months with the two teams. “If I am going to be with kids that long for five months out of the year of their life, I am hoping like crazy I am going to bring something to the table other than just teaching them how to dribble a basketball or some strategy on how to win a game.

“I am perfectly comfortable with the X’s and O’s and all that kinds of stuff. I have coached a thousand games and we have won bookoos, bookoos of games, yeah, yeah, but I want to do something more while I am with those kids than just teach them how to dribble a basketball.”

Justice was once asked by college football coaching legend Lou Holtz during a visit to The Greenbrier if he coached his teams the same way he runs his many businesses.

Definitely.

“I am a real believer in this chemistry and this care theory, where the coach or the employer or the owner cares for the employees or the coach cares for the kids, then they have really got to care back,” Justice said. “It is a little difficult with kids because they are so busy doing so many things that they do, but they have really got to buy into where they really care, and then the coach or the owner has got to make it mandatory that they care for one another.

“It seems really simple, but if you get that going on in the business to where the owner genuinely cares for the employees, the employees genuinely care for the owner and the owner makes it absolutely mandatory that the employees care for one another, you have got something really positive going on and have got good stuff and you have got good karma and that takes you a long ways.”

Krotseng, in his second year at Bluefield State, was excited to have Justice speak to so many of her students, many of whom are athletes at the school.

“We have a wonderful student body, just terrific students all around, just terrific student-athletes,” she said. “This year everybody is excited about the Lady Blues winning the national championship for the ECAC, but we also have our tennis team that went on to national competition last year and hopefully they will be doing that again this year.  

“We have seen all of our athletic programs really stepping up to move up that notch and that is part of that success.”

Put all those students together and they become a team. Being able to help his own players reach success is the best part of being a coach for Justice.

“It would be the being able to reach out and just touch a kid, from the standpoint of having a positive influence on a kid,” Justice said. “There is so many things that kids can get into today that are not good.

“Just to tell it like it is, we have become a world almost where right and wrong doesn’t matter anymore, all that matters is what you get by with.”

Not to Justice, who is quick to share with his players, trying to make sure they are moving in the right direction in life.

“When you can really honestly influence and touch a kid in a positive way, it is meaningful, really meaningful, and it touches you and it makes you young and it makes you feel really like you have done something,” Justice said. “It all starts not with the masses, it starts with one and so that is it, that is my joy.”  

—Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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