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Teammates honor former basketball coach

BOONE—For more than 29 years, Bob Light guided young men through the intricacies of collegiate basketball and tennis as well as the path to adulthood. Now, friends and former basketball players are honoring the retired Appalachian State University coach with a scholarship in his name – the Coach Bob Light Endowment for Basketball Scholarships.

More than $15,000 has been pledged toward the $25,000 scholarship endowment.

Light was the men’s basketball head coach at Appalachian from 1957-72. He compiled an overall record of 212-179, including a 94-85 mark in conference play. He led the Mountaineers to the 1967 Conference Carolinas Tournament title and district playoff appearance.

Alumni Tony Gray of Boone, Wayne Duncan of Raleigh and John Dobbs of Gastonia are among the basketball players who benefited from Light’s guidance on and off the court. They are helping honor their former coach by contributing to the endowment.

“Coach Light had a profound impact on my life,” said Gray, who grew up in Maryland. “I was probably destined to go directly from high school to working in the steel mill as many of my classmates did.” Instead, Gray enrolled at Appalachian and was a member of the men’s basketball team from 1962-66.

“He taught me the value of hard work, and his style of coaching emphasized patience, teamwork, discipline, leadership, respect, integrity, trust, character and the importance of a good education,” Gray said of Light’s influence.

Gray went on to become Light’s first full-time assistant coach, a position he held for five years. Gray later directed Appalachian’s Office of Conferences and Institutes, now the Office of Conference and Camp Services, until his retirement in 2002.

“I am forever grateful to Coach Light for giving me the opportunity to play basketball for him and the many lessons he taught me that led to a better life,” Gray said.

Duncan is chairman of Appalachian’s Foundation Board of Directors, former chairman of the Board of Trustees and is a charter member of ASU athletic hall of fame, to which he was inducted in 1975. He said Light’s example led to his and other players’ success on and off the basketball court.

“I feel very fortunate to have graduated from ASU and to have received a strong liberal arts education. This happened due to Coach Light’s leadership and setting an example to make us successful on and off the basketball court,” Duncan said.

Duncan said that during his time as a student-athlete at Appalachian from 1962-65, 99 percent of his teammates graduated in four years without attending summer school. Duncan said he and others are repaying Light’s belief in their abilities as student-athletes by helping other basketball players attend Appalachian, as well as in the example the basketball alumni set for others. “His players have given back by being involved in their communities in addition to being successful in their chosen profession,” Duncan said.

Light’s influence extended to players’ families as well.

“My life has been wonderful because of Coach Light and Appalachian State,” said John Dobbs, who graduated in 1965 and received a full basketball scholarship to attend Appalachian. “Since I was brought up by a single mom, I was influenced by several men in my life. I saw how Coach Light treated his wife and their children. He always called his wife ‘Sweets’ when he addressed her. I have called my wife, Gayle, ‘Sweetie’ for as long as I can remember.”

After graduating from what was Appalachian State Teachers College, Dobbs embarked on a 30-year career with Speidel. After leaving the company as director of national accounts, he spent five years teaching math in Gastonia. “Being a teacher was much harder than selling Speidel products,” he said.

During his tenure as head basketball coach, Light led the squad to four district playoffs (1960, ’61, ’67 and ’70). He ranks first in Appalachian history in career wins (212) and conference victories (94) and posted winning records in 10 of his 15 seasons at the helm. His best season came during the 1966-67 campaign, when his squad posted a 21-8 record en route to the league championship.

Light is a two-time Carolinas Conference and NAIA District Coach of the Year honoree. He mentored eight all-conference and five all-district players in his tenure.

After stepping down as head basketball coach in 1971, Light served as the Mountaineers’ head men’s tennis coach from 1974-88. He was inducted into Appalachian’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991 for his accomplishments as both the men’s basketball head coach and head tennis coach.

To contribute to the endowment fund, send a check payable to Appalachian State University Foundation Inc. indicated for the benefit of the Coach Bob Light Endowment for Basketball Scholarships. Checks can be mailed to ASU Foundation, Box 32156, Boone, N.C. 28608-2156.