Coach North’s achievements make more than just his school proud
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story was written in December 2011, days after Westfield boys basketball coach Bob North won his 300th career game. A little more than eight years later, North reached the 400-win plateau Tuesday night when the Wolverines knocked off Brocton. While some of the details have changed since this story first saw the light of day, the essence of what has propelled Bob to such lofty numbers and the relationship he had with his late father have stood the test of time.
Nolan Swanson has been the assistant varsity basketball coach at Westfield Central School for only about a month and a half, but it didn’t take long for his “boss,” varsity coach Bob North Jr., to remind him of a night nearly 18 winters ago when the Wolverines took on Sherman.
“I was a little more volatile then,” said Swanson, who was a senior for the Wildcats during the 1993-94 season, “and (North) had kids all over me, double- and triple-teaming me. When we’d get the ball over half court, he’d be yelling ‘shooter, shooter,’ so one time I chucked it across the court to my brother and he made a three.
“I went nose to nose with Bob and said, ‘There’s the shooter!”’
When reminded of that by-play Monday night, North Jr. laughed at the memory and recalled how Swanson had given him a “little lip service” that evening.
The World English Dictionary defines lip service as, “insincere expression … of admiration, support.”
After the events of last weekend, though, Swanson’s admiration for North Jr. – the latest area hoops coach to reach the 300-win plateau – is real and true.
“I think he’s one of those rare coaches who is so good at getting his point across quickly to two or three guys (during the course of a game),” Swanson said. “That’s what I find impressive.”
Somewhere, Bob North Sr. is smiling.
Bob North Sr. was quite a basketball player in his day growing up in the Onondaga County town of Elbridge. His talent was equaled only by his competitiveness.
“He was an outstanding athlete, much better than I was,” Bob Jr. said.
During one high school game in the early 1950s Bob Sr. poured in 64 points on his way to a career total of 1,391. Bob Jr. knows that number exactly, because that’s what it says on a commemorative basketball that he has prominently displayed in a trophy case at his Westfield home.
Bob Sr.’s love for sports continued into adulthood where he played in area basketball and softball leagues. Bob Jr. always suspected that his father would have loved to be a high school coach, but he never had the chance because he never pursued a college education.
Bob Sr. didn’t want his son to experience that same fate.
So Bob Jr., a 1980 graduate of Forestville Central School, went on to college — he earned a degree from Slippery Rock in 1985 — coached two years of junior varsity basketball and then took over as Westfield’s varsity coach for the 1987-88 season.
Nearly 25 years later, Bob Jr., now 49, is still going strong, having collected his 300th career win on Friday night when the Wolverines defeated Falconer in the Westfield Winter Classic. A win on Saturday against Frewsburg, which earned the Wolverines the tournament title, pushed his total to 301.
“The longer you do it, it’s not about the wins and losses, because if you do it long enough you’re bound to win eventually,” North Jr. said. “I’ve had a bunch of good kids and it is satisfying to get that amount of wins. Hopefully, I’m young enough to get another 100. Who knows?”
Along the way, North Jr. has coached two sons, Tyler (who is now playing at Pitt-Bradford) and Trey (who is a senior at Westfield) with another one, Trevor (an eighth-grader), on the Wolverines’ jayvees; has taken a team to the Far West Regional; and has coached others in several Section VI championship games.
Unfortunately, Bob Sr. never had an opportunity to see his son accomplish any of that. He died on Valentine’s Day 1985 at the age of 49 after battling a heart ailment for several years.
“A lot of people who knew him have told me how proud my dad would be,” Bob Jr. said. “He and I were really close, me being a Junior and all. It’s sad he never got to see me coach, because it’s something he wanted to do. It never worked out for him, because school didn’t work out for him.”
But the coaching and teaching gigs have worked out pretty well for Junior, even if he didn’t want to publicize his most recent accomplishment and only did so 24 hours after reaching the 300-win milestone.
“It’s funny,” Bob Jr. said, “my mom (Carol McEntarfer) was the first one to yell at me. She told me that when I called in the game on (Saturday night) that I had to tell you that I got my 300th win (the night before).”
So, Carol, your son did as he was told.
Bob Sr. would have been proud, too.