Coaching legacies continue within local gymnasium names

Kaylee Lemons , Sports Editor

High school athletes from across Southern Illinois are continuing their school’s history and building upon the legacy of past students each time they step on the court. However, these local gymnasiums each hold a legacy of their own within their names.

Changnon Gymnasium of Mount Vernon Township High School holds the legacy of Coach Stanley A. Changnon, carrying his name since 1984. Changnon coached the Rams basketball team for 9 years, and became nationally recognized for his success.

He became the first coach to win two consecutive state championships in Illinois history in 1949 and 1950, with the latter being an undefeated 33-0 season for the Rams. He also served as the school’s athletic director for many years.

When the new MVTHS campus was built in 2017, debate sparked about whether to bring the name to the new gym or leave it behind at the old campus. The original, beloved gym, constructed in 1936, held rich history within its walls and sentimental value for many, but was demolished with the rest of the old campus buildings in 2018.

The Board of Education decided to retain the name and allow tradition to continue in 2017. The legacy of Changnon now lives on for future generations of MV students.

Not far from Changnon Gymnasium sits MV’s rival, Centralia High School, and Trout Arena. The Orphans court is named after Arthur Trout, the school’s basketball coach from 1914 to 1950.

Trout compiled a 811-329 record, earning the Orphans basketball program the title of “America’s Winningest Team” for most of the 20th century – a saying that can still be seen today on a sign displayed outside the gym. He also led his teams to three state titles in 1918, 1922, and 1942. Trout was inducted into the IBCA Hall of Fame in 1973 and the National High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 for his achievements.

Don Schnake wrote a book about the coach titled Trout: The Old Man and the Orphans that contains stories about Trout such as how he handled criticism of his coaching decisions, and the time he “seasoned” a freshman to play starting lineup.

Marion High School’s gymnasium was named after yet another memorable Southern Illinois coach. James Virgil “Cuss” Wilson was a member of MHS faculty for 32 years, serving as basketball coach, teacher, assistant principal, and district athletic director. He won over 300 games in his coaching career, including 12 regional tournaments, and 3 sectionals in 1946, 1948, and 1951.

The Illinois High School Coaches Association honored Wilson “for outstanding achievement in the guidance of young men by promoting ideals of character, leadership, dependability and sportsmanship, and the contribution to the coaching profession,” according to The Marion Lion’s Club established the Cuss Wilson Scholarship in 1957, which is awarded annually to an outstanding MHS athlete, and named the school’s gymnasium Wilson Gym in his honor.

Salem Community High School’s gymnasium is named after Mr. B. E. Gum.  Gum was a memorable superintendent of SCHS for 30 years and was the founder of the annual Salem Invitational Tournament.

“Mr. Gum was a wholehearted supporter of Salem Wildcat athletics. He believed in hard work, discipline and loved to win,” states the Salem Wildcats Sports Hall of Fame. “All coaches and athletes knew Mr. Gum was the leader of the school and sports programs. He was in every sports team picture in the yearbook and enjoyed attending all Salem Wildcat games.”

The SCHS gym was named B.E. Gum Gymnasium on May 23, 1967 in honor of his eternal support and dedication to the Wildcats athletic program.

Turning away from the trend of coach dedicated courts, Frankfort Community High School’s hardwood is named after a star player. Max Morris Gymnasium is named after Glen Max Morris, who was member of the Red Birds basketball team from 1940 to 1943. He became a successful athlete after graduation when he moved on to attend Northwestern University, and was selected as an All-American for both basketball and football.

The former Red Bird set a Big Ten Conference single-game record with 158 receiving yards in 1945, and also won the Big Ten Conference basketball individual scoring championship two consecutive years.

After graduating NU, Morris payed four seasons of professional basketball for the Chicago American Gears and the Sheboygan Red Skins, and three seasons of professional football for the Chicago Rockets and Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Pinckneyville Panthers’ home court is named after Merril “Duster” Thomas. Within Thomas’s 19 years of coaching, he compiled a 460-128 winning record and lead the Panthers to the state championships eight times. In 1947-48 his team took home the title of state champions with a 33-1 season record.

In 1952, a new gymnasium was built and named “Duster Thomas Gym in honor of his successful coaching era and state title.

As players across Southern Illinois wrap up their season, they may not realize the history and legacy of the courts right underneath their feet.