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Kevin Hieronymus

A coach for the ages

Fifty years is a long time no matter what you’ve been doing.

One of my favorite all-time coaches, John Mason, the former Ohio High School girls basketball coach, was recognized Jan 31 with a John Mason Night for 50 years in the coaching business. I was 3 years old at the time, so that’s long, long time ago.

“I had people ask me if that means I’m going to retire and I said, ‘Nope,’ he said. “I don’t care what I coach, just give me a ball and a gym.”

The Morrison native’s career started in 1964 at Hinckley Junior High. He ran fifth- and sixth-grade teams practices before school and seventh- and eighth-grade teams practices after school. Talk about a full day of basketball and kids.

The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer has gone full circle, now coaching the H-BR sophomore boys team. His team won seven straight games to reach the championship game of the Little Ten Conference Tournament.

Along the way, Mason has made stops at Dwight, Sandwich, Malta, Aurora Central, Ohio and Genoa-Kingston, where he was the girls varsity coach last year.

He says he doesn’t know where those 50 years went.

“It’s enjoyable as ever. I’ve been truly blessed by having quality young people over the years,” he said.

H-BR athletic director and head boys basketball coach Bill Sambrookes was thrilled to bring the old coach back to H-BR.

“He loves the game, loves the kids and likes what he’s doing,” Sambrookes told the Aurora Beacon News.“I don’t care what level he coaches, he’s prepared and takes it as seriously as any varsity coach. He doesn’t take time off.”

A grandfatherly-type, Mason turned the Ohio girls program into a winner during his stint there from 2003-06. The Ohio girls simply adored him and many keep in touch today.

“He always believed in us,” said former Ohio Lady Dog Alecia (Smith) Davis, who attended Mason’s celebration night. “Even though we were a smaller school he made us believe we could compete with anybody, and that showed on the floor. He always gave 110 percent and made sure we were prepared to take on anything. He really focused on us being a team. He was able to keep us focused, but at the same time keep things light with his great sense of humor.

“He is an amazing coach, and even better person.”

A senior citizen coach who’s tuned into the 2000s, the coach’s Facebook page is lit up with praises, all echoing the same sentiments as Davis.

“There are not enough words to describe my admiration.”

“So awesome Coach Mason! One of my faves always!”

“So well deserved.”

“Think you must love your job.”

“You are one of the teachers that shaped my life.”

“Think of all the lives on which you have had an impact over these years. You taught them to give their best because you always gave your best.”

“You coach not just for the sport but for the person.

In turn the coach posts, “to continue to be so blessed with the honor of coaching such talented caring and kind human beings. I feel that you all are somehow a part of me and I have learned so much from you.”

I can’t think of a better man to honor than Coach Mason. He truly, truly is in it for the kids. Every kid needs a coach Mason in their life.

Well done, Coach. Here’s to many more years for you on the bench and in the gym.

Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at khieronymus@bcrnews.com.