Ken Simpson still remembers the simple lessons he learned close to 40 years ago from his former coach Rod Smith.
In fact, Simpson himself and several other players from the 1980-81 Delburne Centralized Trojans boys basketball team went into the coaching ranks thanks to Smith.
“He mentored me and a few of the other boys to be coaches and I’ve coached now for 40 consecutive years as a volunteer,” said Simpson.
“I thought because of all the years he’s coached, they should be recognizing all the sacrifice and the time he put in with us. Incredible coach.”
It’s for that reason that Simpson is trying to do something special for his former mentor – by gathering together the Alberta Sports Athletic Association 2A provincial championship Trojans team from 40 years ago and bringing them back to Delburne on Saturday.
“They all said ‘oh, okay if the team is getting back together and Rod’s going to be there’
“He was one of the first people I phoned to see if he was up to it,” noted Simpson, who now lives in Pentiction.
Simpson said some players are making the pilgrimage all the way from Ontario to come to see their old coach and teammates. He started trying to gather names and numbers last April, making close to 1,000 phone calls to try and bring people back together again.
“Back in the spring, I thought it would be pretty cool if we got together and celebrate. So most of the guys are coming, the coaches are coming,” he said.
Simpon explained he still has fond memories of their provincial championship run, including knocking off rival Rimbey in the playoffs. He said their talent was something to behold.
“Back then, we had three younger, grade 11 kids that could shoot the eye out of the hoop from anywhere on the floor. I think we played about 55 games that whole year, exhibition and league and I believe we only lost three games,” he recalled.
They’ll have a small picnic on the football field Saturday around noon for the reunion and swap stories. That will be followed by presenting a plaque to Smith, who taught and coached in the area for upwards of 33 years.
That 1980-81 group, one of Delburne’s only provincial winning basketball teams will be added to a Wall of Fame near the school’s new gym, which was only started a few years ago.
“It’s all about Rod giving his time to us and we all appreciate it,” Simpson said.