Sunday, November 18, 2012

Home Courts and Mascots

The home court advantage in high school basketball is intensified more than at any other level.  I never set out to see as many high school and college basketball arenas as I have, but it happened.  I've moved a lot in life, searching for my place.   I've officiated at high school gyms in Washington, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Oregon.   Primarily, Washington, Utah and Wyoming, so most of my commentary on those gyms and those atmosphere's is from those states.  A high school gym on Friday night, more than anything is an "atmosphere".   There can be a band, there can be music, there are cheerleaders, there are fans, there is a dimension and depth that isn't found on a flat screen television (thank god).  It's not found at an NBA arena, not even at the college level.  The high school arena/gym is special because of its purity. 

First, are the best high school mascots (this is a huge factor for any great home court). 
Schools listed just because of their school mascots:   Camas, Washington (The Papermakers enough said),

The papermill started in Camas, Washington in 1883.   The "Mean Machine" followed shortly thereafter. 

Carbon High, Price Utah(The Dino's enough said);

Carbon Dinos

Orofino, Idaho (Orofino Maniacs), Orofino is the home to the Idaho State Mental Hospital (that is easily the best nickname in high school sports).  I've never actually been to a game here, but the name deserves mention. 

Orofino, Idaho Maniac! 

Jordan High School (The Beetdiggers). 

Also on this list without logos pictured are Astoria, Oregon (The Fighting Fisherman), Richland, Washington (The Bombers), Poca, West Virginia (the Poca Dots). 

Certain venues stand out above the rest.   The top 10 high school environments that I have had the privilege of being a  part of follow (and yes this is extremely objective):

Honorable Mention because of the gym:   East High School, Salt Lake City, Utah, the Utah Jazz first moved to Salt Lake and had practice here.  Albin, Wyoming, so small it can't be legal.  Wyoming Indian High School, Ethete, Wyoming, I don't go for the new gyms, but this is a over the top with size and how nice it is.  Bingham High School, South Jordan, Utah, "The Minepit", Viewmont High School, Layton, Utah. 

10.  Ridgefield, Washington --  Another school on the list primarily because of it's mascot.  A small 2A school in Southwest Washington.   The Spudders as they are called actually features somebody dressed up as a potato as a mascot.  An actual Spud! 

Spudder shaking hands with a student!  You really can't focus much on the game when you see this guy in the corner.

9.  West Jordan, Utah -- Kind of the classic large, old Utah school.  There is a lot of tradition here and West Jo annually hosts an alumni tournament for former players that can't let go. 

8.  Little Snake River, Wyoming -- "The Snake Pit", was just as packed percentage wise as the Battleground gym with maybe 1/50th of the people, but a classic small town gym with a parquet floor, a stage behind one basket and legendary coach Ed Reed's name emblazoned across it. 

7.  Southeast Goshen Yoder, Wyoming  -- Again packed on a Friday night for a game against Lusk.  Just a rural country school where everyone comes in from the ranch to watch their kids on a Friday night.   But more  intense than other small town high school.  Southeast Goshen's faithful take a little more pride in winning.   

6.  Storey Gym, Cheyenne, Wyoming -- a large Indiana type facility, old but refurbished.   Central vs. East brings out most of the city.  It almost feels like a small college gym it is so cavernous.  Central has won the second most state Championships of any high school in the country and they all started right here. 

5.   Chugwater, Wyoming -- Actual cheer, "C-H-U-G-H-2-O", "C-H-U-G-H-2-O" "Chugwater, Chugwater, go, go, go . . ."   I never get enough of that.  Plus they serve the famous "Chugwater Chili" at the Little Six tournament which annually features the six smallest schools in the smallest state in the country over one weekend.  What high school basketball was supposed to be about. 

4.    Hudson Bay High School, Vancouver, Washington -- It's just this enormous facility.  The largest high school facility that I have been in.  I'm not sure how anyone can actually see the game from the last rows as there are stanchions and what seems like a 100 rows between the court and top row. 

3.    Battleground, Washington -- I have never seen a high school basketball game with as many people in attendance as the Battleground/Prairie rivalry.  5000 people, at least that's what the occupancy of the gym was and the entire thing was filled.  Vancouver, Washington is basically a suburb or Portland, yet these schools somehow maintain their country roots when the teams meet.

2.   Olympus High School, Salt Lake City, Utah -- The Olympus student body is knowledgeable, fun and does that bit where some kid comes down in a robe and parts the student body.  I think it's Zeus.  It's as creative as anything a college is doing.   Just electric on Friday night. 

1.   Judge Memorial Catholic High School -- the court is decidedly smaller than a regular court.   How small I'm not certain, I didn't measure.  84 is the minimum length of a high school basketball court -- this seems smaller.  The band is jammed in a corner and the Judge student body, administration and support group sits right on top of the court.  There are only eight rows and three rows on each side of the court.  You really can't hear anything on a Friday night. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012


High school basketball season will tip off across America this time of year as well as the college game.  We at have vowed to follow the high school season with more fervor this year.  Not because we are out of material on the college game, but because of how pure the high school game remains.  

Our first post showed the salaries of multiple division I coaches.  Across the country high school coaches do it for the love of the game.  (see the list below for the 10 winningest high school coaches of all time).  They put in hours, coach summer camps, drive kids home at night, to and from practice.  Arguably, at large high schools, head coaches put in the same hours as small college coaches, often while managing a full teaching load.

As the season tips off, each team in one capacity or another has virtually the same goal or some form of it and it always involves the word "State."   "Take State," "Going to State", "Winning State".   "State" is something you obtain, you go to, its a place, yet it's also an achievement, it is a malleable term -- diverse, hybrid, and still yet a finite point in direction, goal and end.    

Tens of thousands of kids will start the season with talk of "State" for some it's a bus ride to a town or city and basketball arena they have only heard about, for other's it's a chance to miss school if their team does well.   For coaches, officials and fans it's a yearly epicenter of high school basketball in their own "State".   Which is what makes state -- State.  

There are only three "all state" state tournaments remaining.   Only Kentucky, Delaware and Hawaii offer an all class state tournament.  In Kentucky, the tournament draws over 120,000 fans annually for the "Sweet 16" as teams open the tournament in district tournaments, followed by 16 team regionals and then the "Sweet 16" or state tournament.  (And yes, Kentucky's High School Activities Association actually owns the rights to the term "Sweet 16").  The seeding for this tournament is determined by random draw and televised statewide.  This year for the first time ever the final game will be played on a Sunday.  Lexington Lafayette High School and Lexington Herald High School each own 6 boys basketball state championships in Kentucky. 

In Kentucky, Delaware and Hawaii, no matter how large your school is or how small your school is, there is only one state champion.  The movie Hoosiers best characterized this format of a state tournament.  Tiny Hickory advancing through sectionals, regionals and to the state championship.  At that time, Indiana had only one state tournament.  In 1997, against the sentiment of Hickory High's own Bobby Plump, Indiana did away with the all school state tournament and began classification based tournaments.   This past summer, Indiana's own high school activity director vowed that there would be no return to the single class tournament:

Here are some interesting records for the high school game:  

Most State Championships
Jersey City St. Anthony's        New Jersey                                27
Cheyenne Central                   Wyoming                                    24
New Haven Hillhouse             Connecticutt                               22
Kansas City Wyandotte          Kansas                                       20
Little Rock Central                 Arkansas                                    18
Miami Senior                          Florida                                       18
Portsmouth                             New Hampshire                         17
Provo                                     Utah                                           17
Mitchell                                  South Dakota                             16
Phoenix Union                        Arizona                                      16
Macon Lanier                         Georgia                                      16
Hobbs                                    New Mexico                              16
Beckley Woodrow Wilson      West Virginia                              16

The 10 winningest high school basketball coaches of all time are:
Robert Hughes (1959-2005)               Fort Worth I.M Terrell, Fort Worth Dunbar                 1333-265
Morgan Wooten  (1957-2002)           Hyattsville DeMatha                                                     1274-192
Ralph Tasker (1941-1998)            Sulphur Springs, Ohio; Lovington, NM Hobbs                   1122-291
Bill Krueger (1958-1996)              Texas  (various)                                                                 1098-250
Joel Hawkins (1966-2008)          Baton Rouge, Southern Lab                                                 1089-272
Morgan Gilbert (1966-2012)                 Arkansas (various)                                                     1055-580
Bob Hurley  (1974-2012)                          Jersey City, St Anthony's                                       1049-109
Leslie Gaudet (1947-1970)                   Pine Prarie, LA                                                          1026-353
Walter VanHuss (1953-1989)                Hampton, TN                                                            1021-313
Ronald Bradley  (1958-2010)                    Georgia (various)                                                   1019-322 will follow with more as the season progresses.