With more than 500 wins in basketball to his credit, Coach Thomas A. Gutshall has announced his retirement from coaching our Boys High School Basketball team after 31 and a half years.
Recently, I had the opportunity to set down with Gutshall, “Coach” as he’s more widely known, and talk about his incredible career. A testimony to how esteemed he is, as we were talking, Gutshall was greeted warmly by more than several students throughout the interview. Gutshall, a Parsons resident,has lived here since he was four years old. He was born to long-time Tucker County residents Neil and Judy Gutshall and was one of four boys. He credits his parents for teaching him everything he knows. “My Dad was my mentor and coach, he taught me morality. My Mom taught me respect and manners”, Gutshall said.
Gutshall’s father taught at the Parsons High School for many years and his mother at one time worked as a home health care nurse for the Old Tucker County Hospital. Of his three brothers, one still resides here, Bob, who is the local State Farm Agent. His brother Dave, is the head football coach for a high school in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and his brother Gary works at the Marine Base in Washington, D.C.
Gutshall graduated from Parsons High School in 1969 and then went to Fairmont State. He graduated with a Masters in Athletic Training from West Virginia University. After college he started teaching at the Thomas Elementary from ’73-74, then at Mountaineer High School until the high schools all consolidated in ’79, when he went on to teach at Tucker County High School. Last year he retired from teaching. During his 40 years as an educator he had taught everything from History, Driver’s Ed, Athletic Training, Physical Education, and Health. Even though he is most well-known for his coaching our Boys Basketball program he has also coached football, track, and baseball.
When talking to “Coach” you can quickly tell that while very willing to give you an honest answer, he’s not comfortable tooting his own horn. With 504 wins and more than 20 trips (the last 13 in a row) to the boys’ state basketball tournaments during his 31 and a half years, Gutshall would be well within his rights to brag on himself. Instead, Gu
tshall is quick to give credit to his players, assistant coaches, administrators, and the people of Tucker County.
“I’ve been fortunate to coach so many great young men. It’s not me that won, it’s the young men. We’ve had some really dedicated smart kids I’ve coached here. Some are doctors and lawyers now”, Gutshall said.
“I’ve had a lot of great assistant coaches (9-10 of them). They helped make the program what it is”, said Gutshall.
He also gave the administration credit. “People don’t realize how much time and effort goes into having a program like we have.”
When asked what the students’ reaction was to the news of his retirement, Gutshall replied: “The kids understood, but a lot of them were upset.” He jokingly added: “Some of them were happy.”
His recent birthday saw “Coach” turn 63. He said of the things he’d miss were the kids (players and student athletes), the competition, and the friends he’s made both locally and on the state level.
When asked how he’d feel about being retired, he admitted he doesn’t know how he’ll feel. He said he’d miss the students, that they’ve shown a lot of respect to him: “It means a lot to me that they respect me as a person. Whether you play sports or you don’t is your decision, but you’re as important to me as the next person.” Respect is important to Gutshall. He is proud of the fact that anywhere he’s ever taken his athletes they have always been complimented on how well-behaved they are. He is also proud of the fact that he’s never had a player move in that didn’t go through our system and starter for our varsity team. All of them started in our middle schools. “The respect we have state-wide, a lot of people throughout the state who say; we’d like to see Tucker County win one.” Even though twenty trips to the state tournament didn’t result in a championship it did bring two runner up titles. “I wouldn’t take all the championships in the world for all the relationships I’ve been blessed with. I hope I’ve at least touched one person’s life and touched them in some positive way”, said Gutshall.
Hesitant to list any moment as the most memorable, Gutshall responded: “There are so many moments. Every team I’ve coached, they’re very special to me. They’re all special to me. Even the three losing season kids are as special to me. ” All the winning seasons that Gutshall has been at the helm of may never have been, if not for one person. Dr. Roy Moss superintendent of Tucker County Schools for a period back in the 1980’s. Moss believed in him and recommended him for the job. “I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have this job if not for him. He backed me and gave me the opportunity to have the career that I did”, Gutshall said with much inflection in his voice.
Even though retiring from the basketball program, Gutshall will still be a familiar face in local high school sports. He is the athletic trainer for the football team and is the head coach for the Boy’s Track team. He also still plans on attending the state basketball tournament. He has been attending them since 1969 and with 40+ years attending, he doesn’t plan on stopping now.
He lists his acquaintances as another reason for continuing his trips to the tournaments, “I’ve a lot of coaching friends (across the state), sports writers, people at metro news, local TV stations, members of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission, who have been really supportive.”
Asked if he had any advice for his successor Gutshall had a very short list:
2. Thick skin. You cannot let people bother you. At the last tournament there was 5,000 people everyone is a critic, that’s just part of the job. It makes you a loaner.
When asked if he had any regrets you might think it would be the championships that got away, but no, Gutshall said: “I didn’t spend enough time with my own daughters, my own family. You don’t get that back.” He realizes the time and sacrifice his own family made. How much they missed out on. He is married to his high school sweetheart, his wife of almost forty years, Susie. Their two daughters, Jessica and Laura were both Tucker County High School and WVU graduates.
Coach admitted that retiring from the basketball program was one of the hardest decisions he ever made, he felt it was time for someone younger to take over the program. Other than spending time with his family, Gutshall’s plans for retirement are golf, golf, and more golf! He hopes to golf as much as he can at Holly Meadows and someday he hopes to get a chance to play on the course at Augusta or Pebble Beach. With his typical dry sense of humor, Coach said: “I appreciate the people of Tucker County for putting up with me.” More seriously though, he added: “The people of Tucker County have been really supportive. I thank them for letting me coach their kids. It’s been an honor and privilege for me.” No Coach, the honor and privilege has been all ours.