BOYS' PREP BASKETBALL: From rags to riches, Bevars turns North Hardin into 5th Region power (02/11)

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By Chuck Jones

North Hardin senior guard Ruben Gosa knows how special Friday night was, not only to his coach, Ron Bevars, but the school and the community.

With North Hardin’s 88-60 victory over Marion County, Bevars recorded the 800th win of a career that has spanned more than four decades and been littered with accomplishments and championships. He has transformed the program from mediocrity into a perennial power.

“It’s history,” Gosa said. “You don’t see something like that every day. It’s an amazing achievement for Coach. He deserves it. I was proud to be a part of it and we’re proud of each other to get it for him.”

Bevars, who has compiled a record of 801-340 after Saturday night’s win over Louisville Holy Cross, became only the fourth coach in Kentucky to accomplish the feat, joining William Keen, Billy Hicks and Dale Mabrey. Like Bevars, Hicks and Mabrey each reached the plateau this season.

His  victories put him in select company nationally. Only 53 boys’ coaches have won that many games, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations website.

“It was fun and I’m glad it happened,” Bevars said. “I didn’t want it to take away from senior night, but I’m glad it happened and it’s over with. But it’s a special win.”

All wins are special to Bevars, especially after what the team went through last season. The Trojans entered the year as a 5th Region Tournament favorite, only to come unraveled after an injury to Jermaine Ruttley and the suspensions of five players. The suspended players returned in late January and the Trojans made the region tournament, but lost in the first round to Bardstown.

“We’ve had two disastrous years with Jermaine getting hurt two years ago and that debacle last year,” Bevars said. “I didn’t know if I’d coach or not this year. I really didn’t. But these kids are a lot of fun to be around and I have a good coaching staff with Coach (Michael) Cofer, Coach (Gary) Valentine and Coach (Darryl) Murray. Give them a lot of credit and the kids.”

Seniors Tyler Landry, Nick Lewis and Scotty Sterusky were members of last year’s team, which finished 12-18. Lewis said the chemistry is much better this season and everyone, including Bevars, is enjoying more. The Trojans are 20-7 this year after running their win streak to six Saturday night.

“I think it is more fun,” Lewis said. “I think he’s having more fun. Last year, we had too many egos and personalities. This year we play together and we’re all out to win. We don’t care who’s filling up the stat sheet. I’m glad we could get the win for him.”

No one has meant more to a program than Bevars to North Hardin. Prior to Bevars’ arrival, the Trojans hadn’t won a 17th District Tournament championship, let alone a region title.

In his 42 years at North Hardin, including the last 38 as head coach, Bevars has built a state power. The Trojans have won 17 district titles and 12 region championships. North Hardin was state runner-up in 1982 and reached the Sweet 16 semifinals on two other occasions. The Trojans have won 20 or more games 21 times.

His son, Mark, realizes the challenges Bevars faced when he took over as coach. He recalled a conversation the two had after attending the 1978 Sweet 16 final at Freedom Hall. Sitting in traffic, Bevars, who had just finished his third season, looked into the rearview mirror and asked Mark what he thought of the game.

“One day you’ll coach in the state tournament and I’ll play in it,” Mark said after glancing out the window at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. “Dad turned to mom and said, ‘Yes son, I think so, too.’” 

Bevars recorded his first win Dec. 2, 1975. The 78-76 win came against East Hardin, where Bevars played his senior year after playing for the Sonora Comets prior to the consolidation of Hardin County’s community schools.

“It didn’t take me long to figure out the better the players I had, the better the coach I was,” Bevars said in an earlier interview with The News-Enterprise.

In 1991, Bevars earned win No. 318 as the Trojans beat Marion County in the finals of the Marion County Invitational. The victory gave Bevars the most wins for any 17th District coach, topping former Elizabethtown coach Charlie Rawlings, who retired in 1970.

When the Trojans beat Fort Knox on Dec. 2, 2002, Bevars earned victory No. 559, making him the winningest coach in the 5th Region. Former Adair County coach John Burr, who retired in 1968, had held the record.

Bevars reached another milestone in 2011 when he coached his 1,082nd game, eclipsing the state record of 1,081 set by Pearl Combs 40 years ago. Combs registered 761 victories at Hindman and Vicco in 38 seasons.

“It makes you feel a little bit old,” Bevars said at the time. “Time has gone by so fast.”

But Bevars remembers how it started. After coaching a middle school team in Warren County for one season, Bevars said he visited coach Wally Johnson at a North Hardin practice to pursue a job opportunity. Bo O’Brien had been North Hardin’s assistant but he had been called into military service.

When Johnson left the program, Bevars was passed over for the vacancy in favor of Bob Hall, but Hall unexpectedly left in August. The late Ray Story, who was principal, had few options, so he turned to Bevars.

“I can remember Mr. Story saying it might only be for a year,” Bevars said. “That kind of became a joke between us. At the end of each year, he’d ask me if I’d want to keep it for one more year until he retired in ’88. He really stood behind me. … The administration has been really good to me.”

The Trojans had success in Bevars’ first five years but didn’t win a district or region title, and some fans wanted him replaced. Bevars said Story always stuck by him.

“A lesser administrator would have caved in to the demands,” Bevars said in an earlier interview. “The next year we went to the state tournament.”

And the legend was built from there. Bevars’ path to the record books hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been one amazing journey.

“I’m glad it’s over with,” Bevars said. “Someone asked me about it the other day and I told them, ‘799 is almost as good.’ It’s just a number. Most of it is just longevity. I’ve had good teams, good kids, good assistants and good help. I didn’t do it by myself.”

Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or cjones@thenewsenterprise.com.