Jack Fultz

Jack Fultz, center, talks with Charles Chattin, left, and Paul Boyles Friday during a reception at the Ashland Elks Club. Fultz, a former Olive Hill High School basketball coach and longtime educator is the honoree for the 33rd annual Ashland Elks Sports Day.

A champion not only on the basketball court as a player and a coach, but also as a champion in life to many, former Olive Hill coach/player Jack Fultz was honored as the 33rd Annual Ashland Elks Sports Day Honoree Saturday.

Fultz, who had a fierce rivalry with the Ashland Tomcats over his tenure had his career honored by many of the same people who were at odds with the fiery coach/player in his years as a member of the Olive Hill Comets. But, Fultz said that despite the rivalry, his admiration for the Tomcats and the city of Ashland is deeply rooted.

“I have always had a special connection with the city of Ashland and its people,” Fultz said. “When I was younger I used to come to Ashland and spend time with my family. Ashland was always a place I loved, but Olive Hill is and always was home.”

If Olive Hill is home, then Fultz is certainly its patriarch. Fultz set the standard for Carter County basketball and spent an amazing 57 years in the Carter County School System as an educator.

According to former East Carter basketball coach Charlie Baker, Fultz is comparable to another former Kentucky high school basketball coach, John Wooden.

“I always looked at Coach Fultz as the 16th Region’s version of John Wooden,” Baker said. “The way that Wooden approached the game and the way he approached life, was the way that Coach Fultz did. There lives really paralleled each other in so many ways.”

Wooden of course went on from his stint as a high school coach at Northern Kentucky’s Dayton High, to become “The Wizard of Westwood” as the architect of the UCLA Basketball dynasty in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Fultz may have not gone on to the heights of fame as Wooden, but in the Olive Hill community, few men are as respected.

As a player, Fultz was a member of the first region championship team at Olive Hill High in 1944. This team recorded one of the biggest upsets in Kentucky high school basketball history, defeating the No. 1 team in the state in Brooksville. Unfortunately, the Comets fell to Wah Wah Jones and Harlan in the semifinals.

In his coaching career, he amassed 396 victories, including 16th Region championships in 1955, 1956 and 1959, during his 17-year coaching career. But, according to one of his former players Larry James, Fultz taught true life changing lessons.

“Coach was a strict a man as I ever known, but was fair at the same time,” James said. “He could stomp the floor and it seemed like it would shake the whole gym. Discipline was what he instilled in each of us and those are the lessons that carried over to us in life after the games.”

As a coach, Fultz was only able to knock off Ashland a few times in his coaching career, but he said that he learned more by losing to those teams than any other game.

“I always had a lot of respect for the teams that beat me,” Fultz said. “It didn’t kill me to lose, but it hurt awfully bad. I always wanted to play the best teams that we could play, that’s why I played Letcher Norton and Clark County, Marvin Meredith’s Russell teams, and, of course Ashland. Losing is something that should hurt, but you should learn from it. That is a lesson I think that everyone needs to learn in life.”

Throughout the night there were many stories shared by guest speakers, including The Independent’s managing editor and former sports editor Mark Maynard.

Maynard, who had covered 23 of the previous 33 events, said that he felt much like one of Fultz’ former players when he was asked to speak at this event.

“I guess when coach asked you to do something, you just have to do it,” Maynard said. “When you look at all the past honorees, Jack is one of the few who has a connection to almost all of them. As a reporter, I knew about much of the area’s sports history from 1970 to today, but Jack has always been there to fill in the gaps, but more than that he always had two or three stories to share.”

Aside from being an educator and a coach, Fultz spent many years as a writer for his father’s newspaper — The Carter County Herald — and poured many hours of research into writing a 794-page book on the history of Olive Hill High School’s athletic programs, called "A Comets Tale." He sold out both the first and second editions of the books’ printings.

At the end of the nights’ ceremonies Ashland Elks Sports Day Committee member George Stout made the announcement that next year’s honoree will be Ashland native and current Major League Baseball Umpire Charlie Reliford.

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