Rich Mason is facing his big day on the court.
Mason, 84, the former boys basketball coach and principal at Triad High School, will attend ceremonies Friday night dedicating the gymnasium in his honor.
“Rich Mason Gymnasium” will then host its first game — a Mississippi Valley Conference battle between the Knights (16-9, 5-3) and Civic Memorial (18-8, 5-2).
“It’s a tremendous honor. It’s going to be a humbling experience,” Mason said. “I guess if you put in enough time and effort ... I know it’s well intended, but I don’t know if I’ve really earned that or not. It’s important (to me), particularly late in my life here. My heart has been with Triad, and I appreciate the recognition.”
Mason coached the Knights for 29 seasons — 1962-76 and 1982-97 — and earned six regional championships. His 1963-64 team was 22-4, and his 1969-70 team was 24-6.
Mason was Triad’s principal for 18 years, and he continued to perform other administrative duties after retiring in 1994. Mason also was Triad’s baseball coach from 1966-75.
It’s a tremendous honor. It’s going to be a humbling experience. ... I know it’s well intended, but I don’t know if I’ve really earned that or not. It’s important (to me), particularly late in my life here. My heart has been with Triad, and I appreciate the recognition. Rich Mason
Mason, who lives in Troy with his wife, Dolores, said he appreciates the relationships he formed with others during his long tenure.
“I have many good friends,” Mason said. “A lot of the players that played for me, the assistant coaches and opposing coaches and officials over the years, most of my best friends are in those categories.”
Mason coached Brad Droy, a 1975 Triad graduate who is the Knights’ career leading scorer with 1,962 points. Droy went on to play at the University of Missouri.
“He was an outstanding player,” Mason said of Droy.
Mason also recalled two other players: the late Keith McFarland, who starred at Triad, Belleville Area College (now Southwestern Illinois College) and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; and David Wells, who ranks fourth in career scoring at Triad with 1,301 points.
Droy, McFarland and Wells are in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“There are many others, too, that I appreciated over the years and were good players,” Mason said. “We had some teams that played well. My only regret is that I didn’t get a chance to coach a team all the way to the state tournament. I had a couple of sectional teams and got beat, one time by Collinsville and another time by Highland in the finals.”
My only regret is that I didn’t get a chance to coach a team all the way to the state tournament. Rich Mason
Mason, also a member of the IBCA Hall of Fame, remains a regular at many metro-east gymnasiums and estimates he sees “at least” 50 games every season.
Mason attends SIUE games and never misses the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic in December. This season, he also watched the Highland and O’Fallon shootouts.
“I see all the Triad games,” Mason said. “I also watch the girls as well as the guys, and I like to see the other teams play in the area. I’ve watched Edwardsville play (and) East St. Louis. The better teams, every year, I try to take in and see them play.
“Through the years, the game has changed a lot. I appreciate some of the talented kids. They really have to work hard to develop those talents.”