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It’s official for Don Cobb of Wood River and Ray Wesley of Godfrey. Fame is the name of their next game and they won’t need any whistles for it.
They will be among the inductees at the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame dinner on Saturday, April 26. The 42nd annual fete is slated for Illinois State University in Normal and both longtime referees are ardently awaiting the festivities.
“I’m thrilled to death because it’s something I’ve never dreamed of doing,” said Wesley, 58 and a ref for 37 years. “It’s an unbelievable honor and pretty much a cap on my career.”
Cobb, 71, retired from officiating 10 years ago, but he relishes the honor as much as Wesley.
“It’s an honor and the culmination of my career,” said Cobb, a referee for 36 years. “Not too many officials get bestowed any honor like this, so it really means a lot to me.”
Veteran Carrollton coach Jeff Krumwiede, former Venice and SIUE standout Rich Essington, Centralia coach Lee Bennett of Centralia and ex-players LaPhonso Ellis and Cuonzo Martin of now-closed East St. Louis Lincoln also will be saluted.
The personable Krumwiede has coached Carrollton’s Hawks since 1994-95 and he guided them to a runner-up finish in the 2011-12 IHSA finals. The Hawks went 30-5 that season and Krumwiede’s Carrollton teams are 406-181 in 20 years. They have won 20 or more games 13 times in the past two decades.
Essington was an athletics director at Edwardsville, while Bennett previously coached at Alton and Carlinville. He directed the Redbirds to a 100-27 mark from 2003-07.
Officials Kevin Pawlow of Troy and Kevin Wiggs of Belleville also will be enshrined. Chips Giovannie of Princeton will receive the Buzzy O’Connor award and Steve Goers of Rockford will receive the Chuck Rolinski award. The IBCA has been holding its annual Hall of Fame fete since 1973.
“I’m going in with some great people from our area,” said Wesley, a 1974 Civic Memorial High graduate. He said former Eagles’ basketball coach Jim Carey got him started as a referee.
“He told that that I should get into officiating and I started doing grade school games, church league games and city league games,” Wesley said. He progressed through the prep ranks and since has done three IHSA finals and an IBCA All-Star game.
Wesley, the executive director of COCA, a construction business in Maryville, said plenty of family and friends will be with him to celebrate the induction.
“I think it will be an amazing time for me because we will have 17 people there,” Wesley said.
The group will include wife, Terri, plus sons and daughters.
Cobb, owner of No Man’s Land Tavern in East Alton and an Emerson Electric retiree, also will have ample representation at ISU, including his wife, Marsha. The 1961 EA-WR High grad considers the enshrinement a fitting finish to an unforgettable career. He will celebrate it with family and friends.
“We’re going to have 18 people there and it’ll be a great time,” said Cobb, who worked four state tournaments.
He added, “The highlight at state for me could have been the 1996 tournament. It was the first year for the IHSA tournament and Peoria Manual beat Harvey Thornton in the championship game that featured nine Division I players.”
He said former Granite City director of athletics Roger Smith, Collinsville’s Vergil Fletcher and Frank Pitol were all instrumental in starting his career.
“They thought I had what it takes,” Cobb said.
He’s recovering from throat cancer and feeling fine.
“I’m clean now,” Cobb said. “It’s a new lease on life for me.”
One of his favorite officiating stories involved Cobb and Mike Devening working a tightly played EA-WR at Roxana game. It was a typical hard-fought rivalry contest, Cobb said.
“Mike had a bang-bang blocking/charge call that went against Roxana near the end of the game and EA-WR won the game,” Cobb said. “Pat Hamm, the Roxana coach, told us that no matter how bad of a call that was, he would personally escort both of us off the floor.
“And he did do that,” Cobb said, chuckling.