Girls basketball team pays tribute to their ailing coach –
By Patricia Beech –
Photo by Mark Carpenter –
Former Lady Indian basketball players on Tuesday, Dec. 19, hosted a benefit for former Peebles High School Junior Varsity coach, Gary Newman, whose health has deteriorated greatly in recent months.
The event, which was held before the tip-off of the Peebles/West Union varsity boys basketball game, was spearheaded by Tammy Crothers, who was coached by Newman during her high school JV playing career.
“I wanted to have this benefit out of love and respect for a coach that means so much to me,” said Crothers, who earlier in the evening was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
“If it weren’t for Gary and Tom Newman (former PHS girls Varsity coach) I would not have accomplished this achievement,” she said. “I succeeded because they had confidence in me.”
On the court, Newman had a reputation for inspiring JV players to find the best within themselves as he trained them in the fundamentals of the game.
Crothers says that is exactly what he did for her and her teammates.
“Gary had a laid back style, but he worked hard with all of us, and he treated everyone fairly,” she says. “I think if you talked to anyone else, they’re going to tell you the same thing – he wanted Peebles basketball to prosper.”
Newman’s family attended the event, which raised money to help with expenses incurred during his long hospital stay.
Newman was recuperating from a widow-maker heart attack in April 2017 when he fell sustaining an injury to his spinal cord that left him paralyzed from the waist down, and severely compromised his ability to breath on his own.
His wife, Charlotte said she was stunned when benefit organizers presented her with a check.
“People were so generous,” she said, adding, “It’s difficult to be on the receiving end, but we are all so grateful.”
Making the benefit happen was no small task. Crothers turned to the Peebles Athletic Boosters for help.
“We couldn’t have pulled it off without the Boosters,” she says. “They are a great organization and such a big help.”
Athletic Booster Vice President Amy Huffman Swango said after being approached by Crothers, she and the other Boosters threw themselves into organizing the benefit.
“It was Gary’s team wanting to do something for him, and Tammy knew that we’ve worked with a lot of benefits and fundraisers, so she came to us, and of course we said yes,”
Crothers and the Boosters spent weeks collecting donations for a silent auction and a live auction. They also sponsored a Split the Pot, sold hundreds of t-shirts, and auctioned off two team-autographed basketballs during the event.
“When people see me walking through the crowd during an event like this, they know I’m looking for donations for the basketball auction,” says Swango. “I start collecting like it’s an offering, like we’re passing the hat, and people reach into their wallets to help support the cause.”
According to Swango, support for Newman and his family came from both sides of the gymnasium.
Fans in combination gave over $1,800 for the autographed Peebles game ball, and Commissioner Ty Pell’s $500 bid won the West Union team ball.
“It was amazing how generous people were with Christmas being so close,” says Swango. “People were still walking up after the auction to give donations, including an anonymous donor from West Union who handed me $500 after the benefit and asked that we add it to the money their team ball brought.”
After decades of supporting the community through mentoring and coaching young people – the community stepped up to return the favor by showing support for Newman and his family.
“You could see by all the donations from friends and players, and from the community that there was an amazing outpouring of love,” said Huffman-Swango. “So many people contributed.”
Because it was Hall of Fame night, many of Newman’s former players were in the crowd.
“They made a point of being there for the benefit,” said Crothers. “It meant a lot to them because Gary treated us like family. We weren’t just players that come and go, he loved us like his own.”
Asked to rate her former coach’s contributions to the girls basketball program at PHS, she says matter-of-factly, “On a scale of one-to-ten, I’d give him a twelve.”