It has been 58 years since Gene Rhodes guided St. Xavier’s basketball team to the KHSAA’s Sweet 16 state championship in 1958, but he’s still remembered fondly by his players.
Three of the starters on that team – Eddie Schnurr, Freddie Spatz and Larry Duddy – along with the team’s manager, Mike Pollio, went to Elizabethtown on Saturday night to see Rhodes inducted into the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches’ High School Basketball Hall of Fame at the State Theater there.
Schnurr and his wife of 54 years, Barbara, drove 800 miles from Ocala, Fla,, to see his old coach honored. The couple has seven children and 15 grandchildren.
“I love Coach Rhodes,” Schnurr said. “There were probably 10 teams in the state better than us, but we won state. Clark County was the best team (in the Sweet 16), but they lost to Daviess County 59-58 in overtime in the second semifinal (St. X. beat Monticello 58-48 earlier).
“Daviess County had a better team than us, but we won (60-49) because we had the best coach,” Schnurr said. We were 31-4 that year. We lost twice to Central, and once to Manual and Flaget.”
Schnurr, after winning the state high school golf tournament in the spring of ’58, played basketball at Notre Dame.
Rhodes, who will be 89 on Sept. 2, played with Ralph Beard on Male’s 1945 state championship team before playing for Western Kentucky University.
“Ralph and I were the same age, but he graduated in ’45 and I graduated in ’46,” Rhodes said. “People asked me how come. I told them I was born in St. Louis, but when we moved to Louisville the nuns red-shirted me.”
Rhodes coached at all three levels, but liked high schools best.
“You get a feeling of achievement there,” he said. “My old players still call and check on me. That ’58 team didn’t beat themselves. It was a tough team in the clutch.”
Rhodes was an assistant coach under Johnny Oldham at WKU. Besides St. X., he coached at Male and had the state’s No. 1-ranked team in 1964 before the Bulldogs lost to Seneca on a last-second shot by Jesse Kirk in the Seventh Region final. In the pros, Rhodes coached the Kentucky Colonels in the old ABA.
Jeff Lamp, who led Ballard to the first of its three state titles in 1977 when he scored 43 points in the final against Valley, was one of five other Jefferson County products inducted in the Class of 2017. However, he couldn’t make the trip from San Diego.
Lamp played on Virginia’s Final Four team in 1981 and won an NBA championship ring while playing for the Lakers. Since his playing days ended, Lamp has worked as a career development counselor for the NBA Players Association.
Dwight Smith, who led Princeton Dotson to a Sweet 16 berth in 1963 and later starred at WKU, was inducted posthumously. He died by drowning after an automobile accident on Mother’s Day of his senior year. Dwight was represented by his brother Greg.
In a touching moment, Greg was given two Western jerseys from the 1960’s by ex-Fairdale coach Lloyd Gardner, a manager at WKU when both Smiths played there.
“I gave Greg Dwight’s home (white) jersey and Greg his away (red) jersey.” Gardner said.
Sacred Heart coach Donna Moir and Carlie Ormerod – the point guard on the Valkyries’ three straight state championship teams (2002-04) – were also inducted. Former Fairdale coach Stan Hardin and Bobby Turner, an ex-Male and University of Louisville star, were the other Jefferson Countians honored.
Ormerod, the MVP in the ’02 and ’04 state tournaments, said it was “really special” to be inducted along with her coach. “I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” she said.