Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

July 3, 2013

MARK MAYNARD: Russell coaching legend dies at 85

ASHLAND — Marvin Meredith, an iconic boys basketball coach at Russell High School and a former Boyd County commissioner, died early Tuesday morning in Community Hospice. He was 85.

Meredith won 677 games in 32 seasons as the Russell head coach, including three trips to the State Tournament in 1967, 1968 and 1972. He reached the 16th Region championship game on seven occasions, the last time coming in 1988 with one of his greatest teams.

Meredith’s teams were known for their trapping 1-3-1 defenses that devoured opponents and for running the Cam Henderson fast breaks at every opportunity. He always said fans would rather watch a team lose 90-85 than win 50-45.

He was the honoree for Elks Sports Day in 1992 and was elected into the Dawahares Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2000.

Meredith also successfully led Russell’s track and field and golf teams to numerous victories and regional championships and he coached the Kentucky All-Stars in 1987.

Russell’s 80-75 victory over top-ranked Ashland in the 1972 regional finals in Morehead rated as one of his biggest triumphs. The ‘72 team reached the quarterfinals of the State Tournament before being eliminated by Elizabethtown.

Meredith finished his coaching career with a 677-205 record and won more than 20 games in 23 seasons. His Red Devil teams were known for high-scoring affairs, including one stretch where they reached 100 points in five consecutive games.

He began coaching Russell in 1955 and directed several of the greatest players in region history including Mickey Sydenstricker, Tookie Helton, Tom Roberts, Jack Savage, Rick Hensley, Chris Jones, Scott Humphrey and many others.

Meredith was an outstanding athlete at Catlettsburg High School, where he excelled in everything he played — basketball, football, track and baseball. He earned a scholarship to Marshall College where he played basketball and ran track. Long and lanky, he ran a 10.20 100-yard dash in 1951 to set the Ohio Valley Conference record for the Thundering Herd and also competed in the Penn Relays against the fastest men in the world.

Meredith was a good enough football receiver at Catlettsburg that he was selected All-State and also named to the All-Eastern team. He also won the 100-yard dash in the state track meet.

Meredith was, in a word, a winner. It didn’t matter what he played, coached or discussed in fiscal court. The bottom line was always to win.

“He was competitive, he wanted to win but there was more to it than the W and L,” said Humphrey, who played on some of Meredith’s last Russell teams.

Meredith entered the political realm after his coaching career ended. He served three terms as a Boyd County commissioner.

“Coach was a very reasonable person,” said commissioner Carl Tolliver, who served two terms with Meredith. “He was a rock to the court for eight years. The one thing, the biggest thing, he taught me was patience.”

Meredith used to call Catlettsburg “the coaching cradle of Kentucky” because of the high number of outstanding coaches the little town produced. It included the likes of Meredith, Roger Zornes, Bill Tom Ross, Dale Craycraft, Carl Ward, Joe Rupert, Huston Elder, Jack Ison, Don Adkins and Don Eddy to name a few.

Zornes, who grew up and starred at Catlettsburg himself, said he never saw Meredith as a player but understood he was a good one.

“He touched a lot of lives around here, all in a good way,” Zornes said. “Not only us as coaches but all those players who played for him. As we grew up, we knew about Marvin Meredith. He was always a good family man and a good believer in doing things the right way.”

Charles Baker, the longtime East Carter High School coach, called him “a 16th Region treasure. He’s one of those characters that came through the game and through our region. He gave us stories.”

Baker assisted Meredith on the 1987 Kentucky All-Stars. Indiana swept the series but undermatched Kentucky nearly pulled the upset in both games.

“The two weeks I spent with him at (Kentucky) All-Stars is a treasure of mine I’ll never forget,” Baker said. “Marvin was just full of life. He had so much confidence in his abilities and skills. His kids believed in him and he believed in himself.”

Baker said coaches like Meredith and the late Jack Fultz paved the way for him and other coaches in the region.

“They sort of made the bed for us,” he said. “Marvin was a winner.”

State Rep. Rocky Adkins went to Meredith’s camps as a young boy, played against Meredith’s teams in high school, coached against Meredith’s teams and watched as his father coached against them, too. He also worked with Meredith in the political circles later in life.

“There is no one that I had any more respect for than Coach Meredith,” Adkins said. “He always approached things well prepared and with a good game plan. Our region in Kentucky is a much better place because of Coach Marvin Meredith.

“To know him is a tremendous honor for me. To work with him, know him and understand the kind of man he was was special. We will miss ‘The Coach’ as everybody called him. He left a mark upon my life and I think I’m a better person today for the mark he left on me.”

Merle Kidwell, who is Russell’s boys coach, said Meredith was always supportive of him.

“His legacy will stand here for a long time,” Kidwell said. “You put his name with Coach (Ivan) McGlone. Both of those guys are class individuals. You wouldn’t know either one had the success they had.”

Kidwell said Russell Athletic Director Sam Sparks paid Meredith the ultimate compliment when he named the Russell youth league after him. “It’s a common term here at Russell. When you think of Russell basketball, you think of Marv Meredith.”

Russell has already named its gymnasium after Meredith.

Funeral arrangements for Meredith, who is survived by his wife Lenora, are incomplete. His service is being handled by Neal Funeral Home in Catlettsburg.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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