NEWPORT, Ky. – When he was a student at Newport Catholic High School, Dave Cowens said no one was allowed to wear any shoes but gym shoes on the gymnasium floor.
More than 50 years later, the school has added “Central” to its name, girls to its roster, and now with the help of Cowens, a new gym floor to replace the one that he learned the game on.
NCC debuted its new floor Aug. 20 to its current students. The floor has a parquet design like the famed Boston Garden, home of the NBA Celtics.
Cowens, of course, made a name for himself in the Garden, earning NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 1970-71, MVP honors in 1972-73 and seven-time all-star status. He is a Basketball Hall of Famer.
Cowens, making a rare trip back to the area, told the crowd some stories about his days at NewCath and the NBA, and asked everybody to take care of the floor.
“Jack and Ruth Cowens, like many other parents, dedicated hard earned, limited resources to providing their children with a good, Catholic education,” he said in his speech. “Gary, Tom, Jerry and I went to Newport Catholic, sister Susan attended Our Lady of Providence Academy and oldest brother Wayne excelled at Covington Latin School. This gift is in honor of the sacrifices our parents made for us.”
In a later interview, Cowens said he enjoyed his homecoming to the top of the hill.
“You remember walking up to the place, driving around,” he said. “It gets your mind going. It was a different place, an all-boys school with 800 kids. It was very competitive scholastically and athletically. We’re proud of our school.”