George Glymph and Jim Childers were two of the coaches at the height of high school basketball in Columbia in the 1980s and 1990s.
Glymph led Eau Claire to five state titles, including three in a row from 1993-95, while Childers guided Lower Richland to three state championships. The two former coaches will no doubt have plenty of stories to tell when they get together as part of the inaugural Crescent Construction MLK Bash on Jan. 16 and 18.
“Those stories will get embellished now 20 or 30 years later,” said Glymph who went on to coach in the NBA with three different teams. “A seven-foot shot is now a 30-foot shot. But the quality of basketball then was off the chart. All of the schools during that time had at least one Division I player which was great for a city of our size.”
Some of the NBA players that came through Columbia during that time included A.C. Flora’s Tyrone Corbin and Xavier McDaniel, Lower Richland’s Stanley Roberts and JoJo English and Jermaine O’Neal.
One of the most memorable moments during that time was Lower Richland-Eau Claire matchup in 1988. The game was moved to the Carolina Coliseum and Glymph said other schools in the area canceled their games that night so other fans could watch the game.
Lower Richland won the game that was played in front of a sellout crowd of more than 12,000, with hundreds more being turned away. Childers told his players to make sure their families had tickets before the game because of the anticipated crowd. But shortly before game time, Roberts came up to his coach and said his mother and family were outside and couldn’t get in.
“It was great times, great players and coaches,” said Childers, who is now the assistant principal at Spring Valley. “I was the younger coach in the group and was trying to pick up something from all of them. There was good camaraderie between the coaches, and we met on Saturdays after the game. We all took turns and worked with each other during the summer and we would run the AAU programs.”
Childers and Glymph will be two of six former championship coaches to be honored at the event. Others include A.C. Flora’s Carl Williams, Keenan’s Ben Trapp and C.A. Johnson’s Timard Gates and Keenan girls coach Van McCloud.
The event also will honor former recreation coaches Fred Buckson (Drew Park/City of Columbia) and Willie Fairnot (Meadowlakes Park/Richland County).
“Our younger generation has no idea how much these guys impacted the city of Columbia and the state when it comes to basketball,” said Carey Rich, who played at C.A. Johnson and at South Carolina. “The reason Columbia gets so much attention is a result of these guys.”
Rich, the interim superintendent for the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation, spearheaded the event along with the help of Crescent Construction president Kevin Varnadore. The two wanted to find a way to honor Buckson, who recently died, and thought basketball games were the best avenue.
Rich plans to make the Bash an annual event and will honor past players from the city next year. Proceeds from the Classic go to the Richland County Parks and Recreation Foundation and City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Foundation.
“I have seen the excitement of the Bojangles’ and Chick-fil-A Classic and happy to part of those events,” Rich said. “And I want that excitement to be generated from our players in South Carolina. That excitement sometimes is generated because of national powers like Oak Hill coming. I wanted to do something for our instate kids that would give them the same big stage and generate the level of excitement and interest.”
The field for the inaugural event is filled with talented teams from the Midlands and across the state.
The girls portion of the event will be held at Lower Richland, and the matchups are Ridge View-Orangeburg-Wilkinson, Dorman-Lancaster, Sumter-Dreher and Spring Valley-Lower Richland. Six of the eight teams are ranked in the top 10 of the latest South Carolina Basketball Coaches polls.
The Spring Valley-Lower Richland matches friends Anne Long and Debbie Stroman, who have combined to win 14 state titles. Long and Stroman were on the same coaching staff at Lower Richland.
The boys portion of the event will be two days later at Keenan High. The matchups are C.A. Johnson-Lower Richland, Midland-Valley-Sumter, Heathwood Hall-Ridge View, Spring Valley-Wilson and Hammond-Keenan.
The Midland Valley-Sumter and Keenan-Hammond matchups feature teams who won state titles last season. The Hammond-Keenan matchup is the marquee matchup of the event, with the Raiders trying to end the nationally-ranked Skyhawks’ winning streak, which grew to 31 games Friday.
“If there is one team in the city from a public school perspective that embraces that challenge of going against Hammond, it is Keenan,” Rich said.
Crescent Construction MLK Bash Schedule
At Lower Richland (girls)
Ridge View vs. Orangeburg-Wilkinson, noon
Dorman vs. Lancaster, 1:45 p.m.
Sumter vs. Dreher, 3:30 p.m.
Spring Valley vs. Lower Richland, 5:15 p.m.
At Keenan (boys)
C.A. Johnson vs. Lower Richland, 11 a.m.
Midland Valley vs. Sumter, 12:45p.m.
Ridge View vs. Heathwood Hall, 2:30 p.m.
Wilson vs. Spring Valley, 4:45 p.m.
Hammond vs. Keenan, 6 p.m.
TICKETS: $8 each day