Fans fill the gym for coach

Thursday, May 29, 2008
On May 24, a large number of community members gathered at the Cassville Primary School Gymnasium for a dedication ceremony to rename the "old rock gym" in honor of long-time Cassville basketball coach JC Duncan. During the event several former Cassville students shared stories about Duncan's teaching and coaching methods. Pictured above, from left are: Bill Lee, dedication committee chairman and former Cassville basketball player; Duncan; and Bob Shore, former Cassville basketball player and current Camdenton Lakers football coach. The facility will now be called the JC Duncan Gymnasium. Democrat Photo

On May 24, a large number of community members turned out to show their appreciation for long-time Cassville basketball coach JC Duncan. A dedication ceremony was held in the district's elementary school gymnasium, which has been renamed the JC Duncan Gymnasium.

"I'm very proud to be a part of this event for JC," said Superintendent Jim Orrell. "During his time at Cassville, JC taught thousands of students a variety of skills needed to be successful in life. I was fortunate to be able to work with JC after I came to Cassville.

"I would describe JC as a hard worker who is supportive and fair to his students and co-workers," said Orrell. "This gymnasium was the work place of JC much of the time that he worked, coached and taught at Cassville."

Orrell introduced Bill Lee, who was the chairman of the dedication committee and one of Duncan's former basketball players. Lee shared information on the process required to rename the "old rock gymnasium" as the JC Duncan Gymnasium.

"This started at a class reunion that we had," said Lee. "Several of us got to talking about coaches and how JC came to every one of our reunions."

Although several former students thought dedicating the gymnasium in Duncan's honor was a good idea, it was several months before a committee was formed and the dedication process began, said Lee.

"I got a bunch of people together to go to the school board meeting with me and guess what happened," said Lee. "I was by myself. Then I forgot I had to be on the agenda."

When Lee addressed the school board, he was asked how the dedication committee planned to pay for a new sign for the gymnasium.

"I don't know how it came out but I said, 'Money is no problem,'" said Lee, "and it ended up that it was no problem."

As word spread that the gymnasium would be renamed in honor of Duncan, many former students began to donate funds to the committee for the new sign.

"We had money coming in every day," said Lee. "We exceeded the amount we needed for a sign within two or two and a half weeks."

Lee recognized several of the individuals who were instrumental in raising funds for the project. He also stated that money that was not used to purchase the sign could be used to set up a scholarship fund in honor of Duncan.

Cassville Mayor Tracy Holle also attended the dedication ceremony to read a dedication proclamation in honor of Duncan.

"It is certainly an honor to be here today," said Holle. "This is special. This is JC. When I started teaching at Cassville 26 years ago, there were three people who I really admired, Eunice Thomas, Dan Bailey and JC.

"I would look at JC, and I could tell that he was a rock. We have always called this the old rock gym and a rock stands solid like you stand solid in your commitment for others," said Holle. "The City of Cassville presents you an honor of dedication for your service to the community, your commitment to the students and your leadership to all."

The ceremony also included an address by Duncan's daughter, Dianna Duncan-Atnip, and a musical performance by Duncan's grandson Philip Roller, who sang "Somebody's Hero."

"The Webster dictionary defines hero as a man of valor and nobility," Duncan's grandson, Mason Roller, said when introducing Philip's performance. "You've always been our hero."

Toward the end of the dedication ceremony, Duncan's former student and co-worker Becky Henningson had the opportunity to share several stories about Duncan.

"I was a student of JC's in high school and a teaching and coaching colleague later," said Henningson. "JC led by example. He treated his students, co-workers and colleagues as part of his family. He taught you to play hard, give your all, play by the rules, and if that if you didn't play by the rules, there would be consequences."

Henningson recalled that one of the first lessons Duncan ever taught her was that if he was talking she was supposed to be listening.

"I was sitting on the bleachers in this gym one day, and the girl beside me didn't understand what Coach was saying," said Henningson. "I understood, so I decided to tell her what he was saying. The next thing I knew a basketball hit me on the side of the head."

Henningson said Duncan also taught her not to wear girdles, which he said would restrict her breathing, and not to wear spiked heels, which would cause her to have bad posture when she grew older.

"I adhered to both of those health issues, and I thank you for that," said Henningson. "JC was always giving sound advice. JC, the people here today are a testament to you and the lives that you have touched."

Former Cassville High School basketball player and current Camdenton Lakers football coach Bob Shore also spoke during the dedication ceremony on Saturday. Shore shared several basketball-related stories.

"I was more nervous walking across this gym floor with hard-soled shoes on then I was about talking today," said Shore. "I brought my tennis shoes with me. I should have worn them and let everyone else take what they had coming to them."

As a coach, Duncan stressed the fundamentals of the game, said Shore.

"He had the ability to communicate in one quick look what it would take another coach 45 minutes to get across," said Shore. "One look would say I saw what you did and we both know you shouldn't have done it."

Shore shared a story about one of his fellow basketball players who needed to keep a job at Roaring River State Park but did not have a driver's license or a car. Duncan took the time to drive the student to work and home each day, said Shore.

"Basketball is not life. It is a game," said Shore, "but it is a game that you can learn life lessons from and form a foundation to build on. That is what you did for us, Coach. God bless you for all the lives you have touched."

At the end of the dedication ceremony, Wayne Hendrix and several other family members, former students and friends shared other memories.

"Thank you for getting involved and doing this for me," said Duncan. "I have had a lot of wonderful hours in here. I think part of my success was that I have been able to work with good kids. I didn't have a lot of trouble makers. They were all basically good kids.

"It has been a wonderful 52 years in Cassville," said Duncan. "The people of Cassville have been good to me. I hope I've repaid them a little bit."

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