By Walter GeigerI walked in the door of the LCHS gym last week for a playoff game. It was winter break and the crowd was disappointing but I knew one man would be there and he was.Oscar Wimberly was in his customary seat on the front row on the side away from the basketball benches – the spot he has occupied since he retired years agoThe Trojans won that game and advanced to the second round of the playoffs at Pace Academy Saturday. Again, the old coach, braving bad weather, was there.I would have expected nothing less.Coach Wimberly was a standout athlete back in the day. He could play any sport and play it better than most. For years, he was nearly a scratch golfer. He came to coach at the old Booker School here in 1960. That was before integration.Coach Wimberly’s teams succeeded in multiple sports despite minuscule budgets and hand-me-down equipment. After integration, Coach Wimberly took over the boys’ basketball team at the high school.I first started working with him in 1979. I saw him most every Monday during basketball season and have treasured our friendship since.Back then he could offer up a quick, succinct summation and critique of any sports event from the previous weekend.He still has that gift. He knows basketball inside and out and is a superb player evaluator.I think that is why he sits opposite the benches at games now.He is humble and does not want to appear to be passing judgement on current players. He knows them though and they know him. In his 40 plus years coaching, Oscar Wimberly worked with thousands of local young people. Some were athletes.Some were not.He was not just a coach. He was the consummate example, a mentor and life coach before anyone had heard the term life coach. I saw this firsthand a few years ago when I reintroduced the coach to Willie Hamm. Hamm had run track for Wimberly at Booker generations before and it was good to see them get caught up.The old coach is revered by his former players. They seek him out to talk sports. They seek him out for advice about the athletic careers of their own kids. They seek him out for advice on how to live productive lives.Wimberly coached in 688 games. He won 451 of those, a winning percentage of .656. Many of those wins came in the same, now renovated gym, that the high school uses today.It dawned on me there last week that the place should be named the Oscar Wimberly Gymnasium. I approached several people about it after the game and they all agreed that it should have been done before now. So, let’s make it happen!Send a brief letter or e-mail to school superintendent Dr. Jute Wilson asking that he present this idea to the Board of Education for action. The address is 100 Victory Lane, Barnesville, Ga. 30204. Dr. Wilson’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.orgSend copies or speak personally to school board members that you know. It is high time this community honored Coach Oscar Wimberly and naming the gym for him would be the perfect tribute. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.
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