by Craig Harvey
January 21, 2012
Success Of Nobles’ Players Continues After Basketball
Nobles has been at Pine Valley since 1980 and except for a three-year stint as the jayvee coach, he has been at the varsity helm for 28 seasons.
On Friday, in front of family, friends and alumni, Nobles won his 500th game as coach of the Lady Panthers.
During his tenure as head coach, Nobles has won six state championships, eight Far West Regional Championships and 11 Section 6 championships. Pine Valley has appeared in 18 Section 6 championship games and won the league title 16 times under Nobles’ tutelage.
Nobles has coached the modified, jayvee and varsity program all at the same time.
While past players fondly remember the championships and friendships formed on the hardwood, what they remember more is the type of man Nobles was during their time at Pine Valley.
Jennifer Johnson, a 1995 graduate, began playing basketball under Nobles in the seventh grade.
“I look up to him as a fatherly figure,” Johnson said. “He took me under his wing and led me in the right direction in sports and academics. There is so much to say it’s hard to put it into words.”
Johnson became the jayvee manager her seventh-grade year and the varsity manager during her year in eighth grade. During her senior year, she was a starter on the 1995 New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship team.
It was Nobles’ passion to see his players succeed which Johnson speaks fondly of. Nobles would drive Johnson to Rochester for AAU tryouts.
“It was out of his own time he did that,” said Johnson, now the Ellington town justice. “It meant a lot. He has always been there for us. I wonder where I would be if I didn’t play basketball. I didn’t care for high school, but the only thing I cared about was basketball. That’s what kept my grades up. He made us live basketball.”
Though Nobles noted he has reached 500 wins after combining his wins as an assistant coach and a head coach, this 500th win reflects his time as the man in charge.
“He did reach 500, but this is solely him and it’s what he did all by himself,” Johnson said. “I think he should be extremely proud of what he has done for the community and the players. I think playing basketball helped me succeed in whatever I tried to do. He has motivated me to want to do better. I hope he continues to coach girls’ basketball and that he continues to improve the lives of many, many people.”
Tara Ruckh, who is now the women’s basketball coach at SUNY Potsdam, missed witnessing Nobles’ milestone by a day as her team is in Fredonia this afternoon to take on the Blue Devils in SUNYAC action.
Ruckh is hoping to see Nobles at the Fredonia State Fieldhouse as he usually attends the games to see his former player-coach.
“It’s good to get input from him and hear what he saw,” Ruckh said. “He is so good with Xs and Os. I’m always glad to see him. If I run into him, we talk basketball.”
Ruckh said she uses the same philosophies with her team that she learned while playing for Nobles. But those philosophies aren’t all about Xs and Os.
“I think no matter who you play for, you take things that went well and take it into practice,” she continued. “I remember how much he cared for us and how much he put in to helping us be successful. He was pretty open door and approachable. I try to emulate being open door and talking to players when they need to talk – whether it’s basketball or real life. It’s about being available to the players and letting them know that I care about them.”
She too was a 1995 graduate and believes the program has been so successful because of the consistency at every level.
“Tim was consistent,” she said. “He expected the best. I think the big thing was he worked with us when we were young. He initiated the fifth- and sixth-grade program. In junior high, he and his wife were the coaches. It was consistency. We were getting the same message in fifth grade as we were at the varsity level. You wanted to be involved. When you’re successful, it breeds more success.”
As for what she thinks 500 wins means to Nobles, Ruckh thinks it’s a testament to the history of the program.
“I think it’s something that when he looks back, he will think of the players and memories and the people who went through the program. The people who come back and say what they learned, those are the things that are meaningful. I think those are the things he values. I think the things that are more important are where his past players are now. It’s about the people. You felt like he cared and you could talk about whatever. He always had the answer of what was going to happen on the court. You trusted his opinion. I respected him for how he carried himself and how he lived his life.
“I hope he continues to win games and I wish him continued success,” Ruckh concluded. “I am forever grateful to be a part of that program and thankful for all he has done for me.”
Kourtney Troutman is one of the few former players who has had the chance to coach against her mentor as she is the coach of the Salamanca Lady Warriors.
Her team defeated Nobles and Troutman noted she coaches similar plays that she learned while at Pine Valley.
Troutman was a member of the 2005 championship team and credits all the success to Nobles’ vision.
“He built a program working with us when we were in fourth through sixth grade and he made you want to play for him,” she said. “I enjoyed every minute of it. He made us work hard. He showed us the fundamentals which made us so great. I can’t be more thankful. He made me who I was and who I became. When he was coaching my team, I was amazed how he was so calm. I hope one day I can get to that calmness. He won’t yell at you for doing something wrong. He would tell you, ‘Let’s try this.’ He’s always positive and not one to yell. The biggest aspect is he was always positive in nature.”
When Troutman played for the Lady Panthers, Nobles gave a speech at the beginning of the year about going to the state tournament which he called “The Big Dance.” Troutman added looking up at the championship banners that hang in the gymnasium and the opportunity to play varsity basketball for Nobles is what drove her to be a member of the Lady Panthers.
“When we had intramurals, we would go into the gym and see the state titles (banners),” she continued. “He would tell us stories about those championship teams. You wanted to be a part of the Lady Panthers history. He has been a great coach and impacted a lot of ladies.”
And while Nobles chalked up Friday night’s win to just another victory, Troutman said it is more than that.
“I think it means he put a lot of time and effort into the program,” she said. “He sees his girls from fourth grade all the way through. It’s hours spent and good seasons and bad seasons. He built a program. He makes us want to love the game and he makes it fun. He gave us the want to win and the want to succeed.
Nikki Smith, a 1998 graduate and arguably the best player in Pine Valley history, has known Nobles for 20 years and speaks glowingly of her former coach.
“Aside from my father, he was the biggest influence in my life,” she said. “Basketball is a huge part of my life. He has always been a part of my life. I love him dearly. He is such a great person. He knows what he is talking about. He is a wonderful father and husband. He treats players like a daughter. That says more than anything. It makes you love basketball when someone supports you in that way.”
Smith still ranks No. 10 among all time Western New York scoring leaders. After her high school career, she went on to play at Gannon University where she began to have an even stronger appreciation for Nobles.
“My relationship with my coach in college was different than it was with Mr. Nobles,” she continued. “A lot of people who have played college ball after playing with Mr. Nobles would say the same thing. It’s a family-like atmosphere. Once you get outside of it and play at a higher level, it’s a business. They are very business-like and cut throat. To go from Nobles and family to a major college where it was business-like, it was a big change for me. I struggled, but he was there. He came to multiple games and supported me.”
When asked what has made Pine Valley basketball so successful, Smith noted Nobles’ endless preparation.
“When I started coaching with him, I asked when he sleeps,” she laughed. “We would get off the bus from a road game at 11:30 p.m. and by the next morning he had already watched the game twice. I could barely hold my eyes open. I asked, ‘When did you sleep.’ He said he doesn’t sleep. It’s that dedication to know teams out there and be prepared.”
Smith feels 500 wins for Nobles is an accomplishment to be proud of, but knows he will be humble in giving credit to his players.
“It’s a huge honor for him,” Smith said. “He is not going to take any credit. I remember after games he would sit at the end of the bench and watch us celebrate. That’s his personality. What he enjoys most is the joy of others and the joy basketball brings to others. He doesn’t bring notoriety to himself. He will credit it all his assistant coaches when he started the program. He will always pass the credit to others.”
Nobles believes it doesn’t matter what other teams do. As long as his team does what they do well, his team will be successful.
That formula has worked 500 times.