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BOYS' PREP BASKETBALL: Area coaches respect Bevars' legacy (10/06)

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By Nathaniel Bryan

Mark Wells feels high school boys’ basketball coaches who have been around as long as Ron Bevars has at North Hardin don’t owe anybody anything.

Not a reason. Not an apology. Not more time.

“He doesn’t owe anybody anything because he’s been good for the kids,” said Wells, who has been the coach at 17th District rival John Hardin since the 2008-09 season. “When you step away from the competitive nature of it all, you realize he’s good for the kids, he’s good for the game and he’s good for our region.”

Having been the Trojans’ coach since the 1975-76 season, the 70-year-old Bevars informed Principal Lonnie Dennis of his decision to step down Friday morning.

Reached Saturday, many current and former area coaches had nothing but respect for Bevars.

“Marty Fulkerson used to always call him ‘The Dean of 5th Region Basketball’ – and he was. He set the bar high for the rest of us,” said Central Hardin coach J.C. Wright, who has been the Bruins’ coach since the 2002-03 season and grew up playing against Bevars-coached teams while playing for his father, Harry Wright, at the former West Hardin High School. “He is North Hardin basketball. When I played at West, that’s who you played against. He always had quality teams and players. You feared North Hardin during that time. He was the captain of the ship at North Hardin.”

Wright said something which may have gone unnoticed about Bevars was his involvement off the court with his players.

“He had a lot of good teams, but he always took care of players,” Wright explained. “He was a father figure for many of the players who needed guidance and needed the type of person to be a coach and a guide. He was very respected by his players.”

Veteran Elizabethtown coach James Haire, who coached against Bevars for the last 17 seasons, has coached against Bevars in more games than any area coach.

“He’s been coaching a long time and he always produced a great product on the court,” Haire said. “It’s hard to sustain a high quality for as long as he did. He’s a very competitive individual with a strong will to win and he’s meant a lot to North Hardin.”

Although Haire and Bevars have had some notable games in which tempers flared, Haire said there always remained a healthy level of respect between the two. When Haire coached the Kentucky Boys’ Senior All-Stars against Indiana, Haire called Bevars to ask for his advice on how to lead players he wasn’t completely familiar with.

“I genuinely admire what he’s done and I’ve called him before about things,” Haire said. “When I see him, we’ll have long conversations. There’s no animosity at all. None. We leave it on the floor.”

Like Wright and Haire, LaRue County coach Paul Childress had to face a Bevars-coached team as a player before coaching against him.

“I’ve always respected Ron as a coach and I respected him as a player, so it was a privilege to eventually coach against him,” Childress said. “To have one of the premier coaches in the state in your region speaks highly about him.”

With Bevars having more state tournament appearances and more wins than any coach in the region, Childress said Bevars’ consistency remains the standard bearer.

“You hate to see a guy like that go out, but inevitably all of us will stop coaching,” Childress said. “I wish him the best because he set a standard for coaching in the 5th Region that all young coaches should aspire to get to.”

Legendary Elizabethtown Catholic coach Hardin McLane, one of the area’s top realtors, has a long history with Bevars. He sold Bevars his first two homes, the first of which came before Bevars ever coached a game as an assistant. He’s also broadcast many of Bevars’ games  locally for HCEC-TV television, WIEL-AM radio or on the state tournament net works.

McLane has also worked with Bevars to bring the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame – Bevars’ brainchild – to downtown Elizabethtown.

McLane was present during Bevars’ most famous loss, a last-second half-court heave by Laurel County’s Paul Andrews in the 1982 state final.

“I was sitting there at the press table,” McLane recalled. “It was one of those things that tears your heart out when you see something like that happen.”

Bevars’ first varsity win came in 1975, a 78-76 decision over the East Hardin Rebels and eighth-year coach Donnie Morris.

“He’s had outstanding success and he’s a proven coach. He’ knows his basketball and he’s done an excellent job,” said Morris, who coached against Bevars for three years and was inducted into the KHSAA Hall of Fame in 2005. “I admire him for a long and successful career, that’s for sure.”

Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at 270-505-1758 or nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com.