For The Independent
Paintsville basketball players grow up with tradition. There’s the magical state championship run of 1996, countless regional and district titles, and banners honoring the Division I players such as John Pelphrey, Todd Tackett and J.R. Vanhoose.
The one common thread of all Paintsville’s success has been Bill Mike Runyon.
When Runyon capped off a magical career, including eight regional titles, a state championship (1996) and a state runner-up (1998) by kissing the floor at Rupp Arena following a 61-53 loss to Covington Holmes in the Sweet Sixteen, many thought it was an end of an era.
But the ol’ ball coach is back on the sidelines.
“It’s my blood,” said Runyon, while conducting practice earlier this week. It was his eighth practice of the season because he coached the school’s football team, which lost to Pikeville, 63-24, in the opening round of the Class A playoffs. “Paintsville is my home, and there’s no other place I’d rather be.”
Runyon, 56, graduated from Paintsville High School in 1974. He spent four years at Pikeville College and began teaching at PHS in 1978. He won 530 games in his first stint as coach (26 years), which concluded with a 15th Region championship and a berth into the Sweet Sixteen.
“Basketball is a great game, and it’s a simple game,” he said. “There’s not much you can change on an 84-foot court. I’m rested, I’m energized, and I’m going to give it everything I have.”
It’s showing in practice.
Practices are frantic. Drills sometimes last as little as four minutes.
“Make every shot you shoot,” Runyon tells his players.
Les Trimble, the former coach at rival Johnson Central, is assisting Runyon this season. He said players have a deep respect for Runyon.
“When you look up at the banners, he’s been a part of just about everything,” Trimble added. “The players know that he knows what he’s talking about, and he doesn’t settle for anything but their level best.”
Runyon, who won a seat on the Paintsville City Council and unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the Kentucky House two years ago, admits he doesn’t know how much coaching he has left.
“That’ll be determined later on in the season,” he said. “I know that I’m enjoying the game as much as I did before. As for how long, who knows, but I’m very happy right now.”