Thursday, June 7, 2012

Evan Massey and Galesburg Girls Basketball

Evan Massey has been teaching and coaching at Galesburg High School since 1974

Pam and I attended the Silent Auction and had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings Wednesday night, which benefited the Galesburg High School girls basketball program.

I've been calling the GHS girls games on WGIL and WAIK radio stations off and on since 2007.  When I first started, one of the females at WGIL questioned my motives for announcing girls basketball.  She thought I was just doing the games because I couldn't do the boys games.  She didn't know I love girls basketball.

One of the reasons for my preference for girls basketball is coaches like Galesburg's coach, Evan Massey, who has been coaching the girls team at GHS since 1977.

I knew about Coach Massey when I was teaching at Fremd H.S. because Galesburg's girls team was consistently good and was always state-ranked.  I did the public address announcing for the boys basketball games at Fremd, but every once in a while I'd announce a girls game.  Evan Massey's name was always getting thrown around in conversations with Fremd coach Carol Plodzien or Buffalo Grove coach Tom Dineen.  Massey was legendary!

And that name--Evan Massey--it just had a basketball feel to it.  You couldn't forget the name once you heard it.  I had this image of Evan Massey as this super coach who walked on water.

However, when I first met Evan in 2005, I was somewhat taken aback.  Roger Coleman, my old radio boss in Galesburg, introduced me to Coach Massey on a Saturday morning at Swedo's Donuts, a former local hangout on Fremont St. in Galesburg.  I was there having coffee with my union hating rich Republican neighbors who are too cheap to go to a gourmet coffee joint.

Jerry Leggett
Evan Massey sure didn't look like a super coach like I thought he would.  I was expecting him to look like Jerry Leggett, the former Quincy boys coach.  However, Massey looked like a college professor--quiet and reserved.  He was polite when we met, asking  me about Coach Plodzien and what I thought of her.  Then he moved on.  I couldn't believe that this was the same Evan Massey I had read about for the last twenty years.

I was completely underwhelmed!

Flash forward to 2010.  Quincy moved its girls games to a smaller gym, and our broadcast position moved to right behind the Galesburg bench.  I had a chance to watch Massey actually coach a game close-up while I called it.  Man, was I impressed.  What a tremendous coach!  Quincy had a new coach, and the Blue Devils were supposed to be much improved. The Quincy Herald-Whig said the Quincy girls could give the Silver Streaks a game. Galesburg just dismantled them!

Dorothy Gaters
I've seen some pretty good high school coaches in my day:  Galesburg's John Thiel, Maine West's Daryl Kipp, Marshall's Dorothy Gaters, Elgin's Bill Chesbrough, Leggett, but Evan Massey can stand with any of them.

Massey took his 2010-11 team to the Class 3A supersectional, losing to Hillcrest, which finished second in the state.  We media prognosticators predicted before the season that Galesburg might make it to the regional championship game and would probably finish around .500.

We underestimated Evan Massey. . . a big mistake!

Coach Massey is an innovator.  He adopted the Grinnell College "system" of pressing the entire game and launching three-point shots every time up the court.  The "system" also features line changes where four or five players substitute for one another every two or three minutes--just like ice hockey.   I thought Massey was crazy when he first tried "the system" at a game in Bloomington in 2009.  Wrong again, Jim!  Massey was a genius.  The players bought into to the "system," and now I wonder if he'll ever desert it.

However life in basketball hasn't been all sunshine and flowers for Evan.  His 2008-09 team never lived up to its potential.  There were personnel changes on the team.  You heard whispers in the coffee shop that "Maybe it was time . . . "

But Evan Massey just kept going.  He loves what he is doing, and it shows.  I'll certainly never second guess him again.

And I've come to find out that Massey is funny too!  His sense of humor is wry, like White Sox manager Robin Ventura.  Last year he picked up a few technical fouls in consecutive games.

"What happened on the technical yesterday?" I asked him. 

"I was just trying to help him [the official] out," he responded with a twinkle in his eye.

I feel sorry for Coach Massey because there are two radio stations covering every game, plus the local newspaper and the Quad City and Peoria papers.  Evan has to tape pre-game interviews with both stations and then speak with all the press after the games.  My partner Jimmie Carr sometimes keeps him for 20 minutes on the post-game show.

And  after a tough loss coming on the radio is difficult.  We ask stupid questions, and we repeat ourselves. Jimmie doesn't, but I know I do!  Evan always responds graciously. 

I'm just fortunate that I've been able to be associated with Evan Massey and the girls basketball program over these past five years.  He may not look like Jerry Leggett, but Massey is cut from the same coaching cloth.

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