Triad names gymnasium after former basketball coach
Rich Mason Gymnasium was officially dedicated Friday night before the Triad Knights defeated Civic Memorial 51-48 in a Mississippi Valley Conference boys basketball game.
Mason, 84, and several of his former players from his 29 seasons and two stints as Triad’s coach, attended the 20-minute ceremony.
“It’s a great tribute, and it’s really appreciated,” said Mason, of Troy. “My heart has always been with the Triad Knights, so it’s a big thing.”
Mason was thrilled to see many of the familiar faces, but he credited his wife of 63 years, Dolores, for allowing his career to happen.
“I want to pay tribute to my wife,” an obviously moved Mason said after the ceremony. “I entered into a contract with a head coach 63 years ago, and she’s been a great supporter. I think it’s tougher to be the coach’s wife than it is to be the coach.
“Tremendous evening. This is a great honor, and I really appreciate it. It’s a humbling experience for me. I really appreciated seeing some of our good players out here who traveled to get over here for the event.”
Mason said the tribute was “more emotional” than he believed it would be.
Among the former players attending was 1975 graduate Brad Droy, Triad’s all-time leading scorer with 1,962 points. Droy made the trip to the metro-east from his home near Destin, Fla., about a 10-hour drive.
“This is well deserved,” the 6-foot-7 Droy said. “What Rich brought was a sense of community. Folks would rally around the basketball team. It was really more of a cultural thing.”
Droy said Mason was a demanding coach.
“Rich was tough on us when he needed to be,” said Droy, who played at the University of Missouri. “He was hard-nosed, and that’s the way it was back in those days.”
Droy’s brother, Randy, a 1972 graduate who lives in Marine, also played for Mason and finished his career with 1,133 points to rank 10th all-time.
“He was always real fiery,” he said of Mason. “He wanted to win bad. He had the mentality of, ‘Don’t quit,’ and he expected that out of everybody. It was a different time then, too. You treated people differently than you do now; everybody’s hands-off. He was hands-on.”
Steve Porter, a 1969 Triad graduate, met Mason when Mason was in his first coaching assignment with the Knights from 1962-76. Mason returned from 1982-97.
“Coach Mason was instrumental in developing many athletes and mentoring numerous students at Triad,” said Porter, who spent 40 years covering metro-east sports for The Telegraph in Alton. “Much of that was because he had so many roles at the school through the years: physical education teacher, baseball coach, basketball coach, director of athletics and principal. He did them all and I think he enjoyed doing that.
“Naming the gym in his honor is a fitting tribute for someone involved in Triad athletics for more than 50 years – dating to 1962, I believe – and still a part of it.”
Mason also 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.