PAINTSVILLE — Located in the same town, just a mile apart, Paintsville High and Johnson Central High Schools have one of the fiercest basketball rivalries in Eastern Kentucky.
Over the years there have been notable players that have played for both teams, even coaches that have worked at both schools.
Orville Hamilton, superintendent of the Johnson County School system in the 1990s, was a star athlete at Paintsville in 1959 after moving into town from Point Pleasant, W.Va. Hamilton played basketball well enough at Paintsville to earn a scholarship to play Division I basketball at Eastern Kentucky University.
In fact, Johnson Central’s first basketball coach, Paul Williams has close ties to both schools. Williams played basketball at Paintsville in the late 1950s eventually becoming a coach at Oil Springs High School. After his time at Johnson Central he later coached basketball at Paintsville, having a young assistant named Bill Mike Runyon on his staff.
Williams was principal of Paintsville Elementary School while he son, Bart, was a star basketball player at Johnson Central in the late 1980s. Mr. Williams later became the superintendant of the Paintsville City Schools and was there when the Tigers won their state championship in 1996. With such an interesting and complicated history, a look at the overall basketball series between the two schools needs a discussion.
In the early 1960s talk began about consolidating the four county high schools (Oil Springs, Flat Gap, Meade Memorial, and Van Lear) in Johnson County into one, larger school. It was agreed to do this by a vote in 1965 and Johnson Central opened its doors as a school in 1968. Many people believed that once the county schools were consolidated into Johnson Central, competing with its athletic teams would be very tough for the Paintsville Tigers. At first it was, especially in basketball.