By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A man with thinning hair stood in front of a video screen, transfixed, as though he was looking through a portal to the past.
In a way, he was.
A taped replay of the West Virginia Conference men’s basketball championship game of 1989 was running in the dance studio-turned-reception hall on Saturday evening in Athens as seven members of the Concord team that played that day caught up on old times — for some, 25 years old.
When the players from 1988-89 won the conference tournament title, and with it a trip to the national tourney, the building was called Centennial Hall, the playing floor had no name inscribed on it, and the institution itself carried the name Concord College.
On Saturday, Concord University honored that team, and its coaches and manager, on the Christie-Cox Court of the building now known as the Carter Center.
Steve Cox, the assistant coach to Don Christie from 1979 to 1989, was the master of ceremonies at the reception that followed Concord’s final game of the 2013-14 regular season.
Early on, Cox praised what Christie did for the Concord basketball program. Christie died last year. The 1989 championship run was accomplished in Christie’s final season as basketball coach, before he became full-time athletics director and turned the team over to Cox.
“Coach Christie, I think, turned Concord basketball around and made it relevant,” Cox said.
A few minutes later, Cox handed the microphone to current Concord men’s coach Kent McBride, who played point guard for Cox in the early 2000s.
“They’ve done a lot for me,” McBride said about the two who preceded him in the CU head coach’s job. “It’s an honor for me to follow you (Cox) and Coach Christie and what you’ve built.”
At the end of the 1988-89 season, Concord finished second in the regular season. At the tradition-rich tournament of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) in the Charleston Civic Center, Concord beat Charleston and Glenville State, then knocked off nationally-ranked Wheeling Jesuit 88-86 for the tourney title.
The Mountain Lions then traveled to Kansas City, Mo., for the tournament of the National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), where their season ended with a 23-9 record, the first 20-win season in Concord men’s basketball history.
Later, the conference moved from the NAIA to the NCAA ranks. The conference itself dissolved last summer.
The reunion on Saturday brought together players Scott Goins, Ricky Lester, Julius Lockett, Todd Lusk, Will Shrewsbury, Ron Ward and Dan Weitzel. Joining them was the team’s manager, Alvin Cox, and then-assistant coaches Will Johnson and Cox.
At halftime of the men’s game Saturday, the public address announcer read the names of teammates who could not be present last weekend — John Holbrook, Ben Blanding, Barry Holmes, Vincent Massie, Andre Nabors, Chuck Scott, and Christie’s nephew Donnie Christie.
Cox said that Donnie Christie is now a basketball coach and was involved in a postseason tournament in Toledo, Ohio, over the weekend. He and Shrewsbury were the team’s seniors.
“Those two guys were really very valuable to our team,” Cox said.
Ward became the top scorer in Concord history. Lockett is in second place and Lusk, the school’s all-time leader in 3-point goals, is fifth on the scoring list. Ward is also the leader in rebounds, and Lockett is seventh in that category.
Scott tops the Concord record books in assists and Donnie Christie has the most steals.
Cox said about Ward, “He was a great athlete, but he was not one of those guys who thinks he knows everything. He was very coachable.”
Cox described his team’s full-court offense. “Todd would take it out, we’d have Big Ron down the middle and the two wings ... then Todd would show up at the top of the key and shoot a three.” Cox joked about Goins, “He shot the threes that Todd had left over.”
Cox said that Ward, Goins, Lester and Weitzel were all freshmen 25 years ago. “What really made that team in 1989 was the freshman group that came in,” he said.
Weitzel was “a little bit older” than the other freshmen, Cox said. “He contributed a lot of leadership for us.”
The WVIAC developed a tradition at its men’s basketball tournament of honoring the team that had won the tourney 25 years before. The Mountain East Conference, which now includes many of those teams, showed no interest in continuing the tradition, Cox said.
He recalled that after Concord won the title in 1989, Christie had told his players, “See you in 25 years.”
McBride said that he played the tape of the 1989 WVIAC championship for this year’s team prior to Saturday. “They watched the whole film, like it was a scout film,” the coach said.
“It really does mean something,” McBride said of the 1989 accomplishments. Turning to Cox, he said, “We want to thank you, Coach, for what you’ve done for us.”
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