Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

December 31, 2013

Kouns officially finished with basketball

Veteran hangs up whistle after 47 years

SOUTH SHORE — One of the most well-known figures in local sports history is finally lightening his load.

Bob Kouns is now down to officiating just two sports. His 47-year stint as a basketball referee is officially over.

The 74-year-old area icon tossed himself off the hardwood after a visit with his doctor.

“My doctor told me about a year ago that I needed to slow down,” said Kouns, citing age and his heart as reasons why. “When I went and saw him in November, I told him we would do some straight-talking. I said, ‘They’re getting ready to assign basketball games. So I’m going to ask you, are we gonna work?’”

The answer was a suggested no, and Kouns followed doctor’s orders.

“I knew that basketball would be the first to go, with it being more strenuous with running and so forth,” Kouns said. He will continue umpiring baseball, which he’s done for 48 years, and officiating football, a 45-year gig.

On Friday night at the 59th annual Ashland Invitational Tournament, Kouns was presented an encased basketball with “Bob Kouns, 30 AITs” etched onto it, marking the number of AITs he’s worked.

Kouns was also recognized recently in the Boyd County Roundball Classic.

More Kouns statistics include: five Boys Sweet Sixteen tournaments (last in 1997); 43 straight district championships; and 43 consecutive region tournaments.

The final game he called was a 9th Region Tournament contest at Northern Kentucky University last season.

In his first state tournament, he worked a game between the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in Kentucky at Freedom Hall in Louisville.

“Everybody wanted that one,” he remembered fondly.

“I do miss the rush,” he admitted, “that you get when you’ve got a big game, and you know you’ve done a good job. We know, as officials, when we’ve done a good job. You’re going to miss one or two (calls), that’s human nature.”

Kouns estimates he worked about 2,500 basketball games after the last near half-century.

Before becoming a referee, he played the sport, along with baseball.

Kouns was a two-sport standout at South Portsmouth High School, from where he graduated in 1958. He received a full-ride scholarship to play baseball and basketball at William Carey College (now William Carey University), located in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Sid Meade, Kouns’s basketball coach at South Portsmouth, was highly influential in his life. He helped Kouns land at William Carey, and later jumpstarted his officiating career.

“When (Meade) was superintendent at Lewis County, he said, ‘Son, I need umpires for home baseball games. Go get your license,’” Kouns remembered.

A year later, Meade needed some JV basketball games covered.

“That’s how I got started,” said Kouns, adding, “Sid was like a second father to me.”

In addition to both boys’ and girls’ high school games in Kentucky and Ohio, Kouns called some college contests — he worked 10 seasons in the the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He worked college baseball, too, in the Mid-South Conference for 15 years.

Kouns has racked up several accolades, including a 2004 induction into the KHSAA Baseball Hall of Fame, being voted in as a Legend in Kentucky Sports in 2007 and receiving an Outstanding Umpire of the Year award in 2007.

Kouns has worked seven state baseball tournaments and five state football championships.

“(Fellow official) Chris Allen told me I needed to sit down and figure out what all I’ve done in my career,” Kouns said. “So every now and then I’ll think of something, go back and write it down ... I wish I would’ve kept a notebook or diary.”

Kouns doesn’t get rattled on the field (or court) of play. He said he’s never let the noise from the stands get under his skin, even as a 27-year-old rookie.

“You just sort of block it out,” Kouns said. “Sure, you’ll hear some things every now and then.”

His mild-mannered personality also helped him develop a strong rapport with coaches. Plus, his time spent as McKell’s and then Greenup County’s baseball coach helped.

“It’s just a matter of coaches respecting you,” Kouns said. “Coaches could always talk to me, I could talk to them. It’s because I’ve been on both sides.”

Until baseball season, which is just around the corner, Kouns continues to stay active while basketball is played. He’ll walk on the treadmill, soon play golf and help assigning secretary Joe Billman evaluate young officials on the court.

AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.

1
Text Only
Local Sports
  • 0420chattin0397.jpg Pole vaulters conquer wind in Chattin

    For obvious reasons, pole vaulting records and windy conditions don’t go together.
    Raceland’s Connor Messer and Fairview’s Morgan McIntyre raised the bar anyway at Saturday’s Ernie Chattin Memorial Invitational.
    Despite a windy challenge — especially for Messer — on the hilltop at Ashland Athletic Complex, both athletes set new pole vault marks for the 11-year-old meet and received Outstanding Performance awards.

    April 20, 2014 5 Photos

  • 0415eastSB0170 copy.jpg Stock soaring for East eighth-grader Fouts

    With a name like Montana, you just have to go big.
    Six-foot eighth-grader Montana Fouts isn't a big talker, but when it comes to the business of softball, her skills convey a loud and clear message.
    The East Carter pitcher is making herself a can't-pass-up commodity with her flawless throwing form and sizzling speed.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lewis snaps 4-game skid, beats Ashland, 2-0

    Question: What four-game Lewis County losing streak?

    Answer: the one the Lions snapped Saturday by knocking off visiting Ashland, 2-0, in the third annual Lewis County Autism Awareness game.

    April 20, 2014

  • HIGH SCHOOL ROUNDUP: Hensley fires 2nd no-no in 2 days, Kittens split

    Ashland junior Megan Hensley no-hit Portsmouth West on Saturday, one day after dealing a perfect game, as the Kittens beat the Lady Senators 16-0 in five innings at the Valley of Thunder at Symmes Valley.

    April 19, 2014

  • west.JPG Streak snapped: Comets end 40-game losing streak to Raiders

    Nineteen years and 40 games between East Carter and West Carter have passed since the Comets have beaten the Raiders.
    Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” was the No. 1 song the last time West got a win over East.
    The visiting Comets ended almost 20 years of futility against the Raiders in dominating fashion on Friday night, defeating East Carter, 8-0.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Williams steps down as Lady Vikings coach

    Jen Williams did not make this decision lightly.

    April 19, 2014

  • HIGH SCHOOL ROUNDUP: Hensley spins perfect game

    Ashland’s Megan Hensley fired a perfect game and drove in the only runs of the game with a two-run homer as the Kittens topped Upper Arlington (Ohio) 2-0 in the Valley of Thunder at Symmes Valley on Friday night.

    April 19, 2014

  • 0418ashlandBB0268.jpg One-run fun: Ashland on smiling side of close game vs. East

    After opening the season with a 2-1 victory, Ashland has had a hard time cracking the close game code.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418_Ash_vs_JC_0003.JPG Hensley rises, fires as Kittens win big

    Johnson Central softball coach Jason Hurt’s already high opinion of Ashland junior Megan Hensley rose to another level Thursday night.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041714_29a.jpg Diller, Mackie spark Raceland

    It is time for the 16th Region to take notice of the Raceland softball team.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos