Lights out in Kunzler

TORONTO – It was the night the lights went out in Toronto.

Toronto High School celebrated the final game in George J. Kunzler Memorial Gymnasium Saturday, which opened in 1939, with “Lights Out Knight” during the Red Knights game with Wellsville.

“It’s really special and it means so much to a lot of people,” said Toronto Athletic Director Andy Reeves. “In the last month I’ve talked to several people, that are significant alumni, who are here tonight.

“The thing about it was, the late idea my father gave me on Wednesday, Bill Garman, who is a realtor here in Toronto, was, in 1939 and 40 when this gym was dedicated, in the eight grade and a manger and is here tonight as an honorary captain. We have bookends. We have our 2013 senior captains and a guy that was here when the gym was opened.

“I think that’s really cool.”

Garman, who is also a former Red Knights basketball player who graduated in 1945, was thrilled to be there for the gym’s final game.

“I’m the latest one they could find,” Garman said. “I enjoyed this. Toronto, in my opinion, has always been a basketball school? It has a great tradition, and we’ve had some great athletes in Toronto that played basketball.

“I really enjoyed being here with everyone tonight.”

Throughout the evening former coaches, players, and teams were remembered and celebrated as people shared memories of good times had at the old gym.

“We kept the night more about the gym,” said Reeves. “We are honoring specific teams, 1,000-point scorers, and coaches. We will honor them tonight, but its more about the gymnasium and the alumni and sending this place out the right way.

“It’s been a truly humbling experience because when I’m making all these calls and looking up all these yearbook pictures and dedications it made me realize how big something like this really is.

“It touched so many people. From 1939 and here we are now in 2013 with someone from that era to celebrate with us. We’re going to send it out the right way.”

Tom “Chip” Coulter (Class of 1964) and Dick Simons (Class of 1967) were among the 1,000-point scorers in attendance.

“The way I look at it, it’s always good coming to these events, seeing people like Dick Simons, and people I haven’t seen in a few years,” said Coulter. “It’s always good just to reminisce and talk about the old times.”

Added Simons, “It’s great to be back and see a place like Toronto has maintained it’s own integrity, and see a lot of people I haven’t seen for a long time.

“It’s just good to be back in the old gymnasium again. It brings back a lot of wonderful memories.”

Also in attendance for the event were the Red Knights’ boy’s and girl’s all-time leading scorers – Natalie Burchfield (Class of 2007) and Otis Winston (Class of 1992).

“It obviously feel great to be a part of it,” said Burchfield. “It’s just a great experience and a great atmosphere.

“Sorry the gym has to go, but it will carry on hopefully into the future.”

Added Winston, “It’s amazing. I can’t put it into words. To walk into the gym and see my coaches and all my former teammates is just amazing. This is where I started. Now I’m doing stuff in movies and things, but this feeling, to be embraced by all these kids and friends and family, is just amazing.

“Kudos to Andy Reeves for having us back. It’s amazing, I’m just speechless.”

Current girls’ head coach Mallory Blanton was thrilled to be a part of such a long, and amazing history.

“It’s awesome to see the past coaches, and see how they’re doing,” said Blanton. “To hear their stories about successes and failures, and try to learn from that is a special thing.

“I don’t remember the last time there was so many people in the stands. It’s amazing.”

Current boys’ head coach John Leary concurred and believed his players lucky to be able to be a part of the event.

“That was an awesome experience for these kids,” said Leary. “I’m really glad they got to experience this.

“They’ve all worked very hard the two years I’ve been with them, and to get to see this in their own gym is something I kept reminding them as young men you might not think a whole lot about it now, but someday you’ll be very proud to tell people you played in the last game in the old gym.

“It was very unique and very special. I thought it was awesome.”

And when the game was over the 2013 senior boys and girls cut down the nets before the Toronto family circled the court, and the lights were turned out for the last time on the old George J. Kunzler Memorial Gymnasium.