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River’s Curtis Calls It a Career

December 6, 2017
BY BRUCE CRAWFORD - Staff Writer (bcrawford@wetzelchronicle.com) , Wetzel Chronicle

Longtime River Pilot Assistant Coach Gard Curtis hung up his sneakers to watch his grandchildren participate in various activities this year.

Curtis was on the sidelines for 55 glorious years, helping River coaches Dick Potts and Mark Romick bring wonderful seasons of boys basketball play in Switzerland Country.

Best know for his defensive strategies, Curtis has stepped down to fulfill his promise he kept to himself: to watch his 13 grandchildren participate in after-school activities like basketball, baseball, softball and golf.

Article Photos

Photos by Bruce Crawford
In the photo, long-rime Assistant Coach Gard Curtis relaxes in his rocking chair, between a pair of River Pilot snowmen. Curtis enjoys relaxing in his house with many, many mementos, including part of a floor that was once part of a school, as well as pieces of old bleachers. Curtis also has an afghan his wife made with jerseys, tee-shirts, and other material, including photos of his family.

"I've had my time, but now it's time for me to watch my grandchildren participate in sports or whatever they want to do," says Curtis.

Curtis started his coaching years in 1962 at Clarington, where he coached till 1969. From there, he met up with the late R.L. Potts and Mark Romick from 1970 until this year.

"I've met a lot of good people during my years at River, and I cherish them all," added Curtis. His wife, Nancy, has never missed a game during their 53-years of marriage.

Curtis was asked what was his most memorable game was, and he was quick to answer, "last year".

"We were playing Sandy Valley, in the Ohio Division III Eastern District Championship, and lost 59-57, but we fought the fight and left everything on the floor, and you can't ask for any more than that," said Curtis.

Coach Curtis has four children in Chuck, Erin, Jennifer and Tiffany, along with 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Coach Curtis was quick to add, "The year we beat Morgan in nine overtimes was another game I will never forget, when Brian Ensinger tallied the game winner back in 1976 the year and the only time the River Pilots went undefeated."

Coach Curtis was also asked about some of his players he coached, and the humble man didn't want to, because he would most likely leave someone out. But, he tried to accommodate, and named a few.

He named several, too numerous to mention; however, his list included names such as Barry Kriekbaum, the Tolzda brothers, Ryne Romick, Mitch Miracle, Bob Shaffer, Jim Martin, Phil Hulsey, Greg Porter, Rick Isaly, Jim Eveland and Bruce Crawford.

When you coach as long as Coach Curtis, you run into many, many friendly faces, but the most rewarding was Harry Mullett, the River principal.

"Mr. Mullett was a man that I admired greatly. He would look you in the eye, and he doen't beat around the bush. He tells you the way it is, and I liked that," said Curtis. "He was direct and a great guy."

Another story he told pertained to the time the Pilots welcomed Allan Hornyak to River High School.

"The place was packed, and by halftime, everyone hated us. We started with what the great Cassius Clay made famous - the Rope-A-Dope. We wanted to win, and we put the rope-a-dope in. The hundreds of people wanted to see the great Hornyak score lots of points, but they didn't get to. We wanted to win, and that was what we thought might do it (the rope-a-dope). We stayed close in the first half, but not in the second."

Many awards were presented to Coach Curtis, but the one most rewarding was the Bob Burton Award in 2007, for his many years of coaching.

Coach Curtis was a defensive mind like Bob Ripley is to Magnolia - outstanding. He only had to go through three score-keepers during all his years of coaching - Ralph Walters, then Rich Miller, followed by Janice Tisher.

It was nice to know that you were always going to have the right stats with these three fine Pilot faithful.

The longevity has helped Curtis in what he loves to do just as much as coaching - gardening and carpentry work, building houses. In his life, Curtis has had some difficult times, too. He has had stints put in, as well as battled cancer.

However, Curtis is still is going strong, and believes his faith in God - and his steady routine of gardening, mowing grass, and building - has helped. These leisurely pursuits have given him the time to to watch his grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow into fine upstanding men and women.

Curtis told many other stories, but this writer would like to add one: The Pilots were playing a state playoff game and were winning by a nice margin, when Coach Potts looked down the bench to see his players eating popcorn. Coach Potts was beside himself!

Though Curtis had many tales to share about Potts; he was honored to be on the sidelines with Mark Romick.

"Coach Romick is for the kids in everything he does - from coaching, to being the athletic director, to being a teacher. I will miss being beside of him."

Not only has Curtis been watching his grandchildren play ball. He still stays active walking the golf course as his grandson Issac Curtis competes at AB.

Issac was the Pilots all-time three-point leader in a game and a career, and Coach Curtis had a front row seat to watch his grandson play. He will now get to watch - not only Issac at AB - but 12 other grandchildren do their thing. One would be hard-pressed to find a fellow as worthy as Coach Curtis.

Thank you!

 
 
 

 

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