Honoring a legend: Columbia High names gym after legendary girls basketball coach

·3 min read

Bobby Young didn’t want Friday’s festivities to be about him, but those around the Columbia High program wanted to sure the former coach got his just due.

Hundreds of people, including former players, community members, state representatives and other dignitaries came out to honor former the Columbia High girls basketball coaching legend. The school renamed its gymnasium Bobby R. Young Gymnasium during halftime of the Capitals’ game against Batesburg-Leesville.

“This night is not for me. It is for the players,” Young said. “I did not win one championship, did not win one tournament, I did not shoot, I didn’t rebound, didn’t make a pass. The players did. This should be their night. But as I said a few minutes ago, I will take it.”

Former Columbia High girls basketball coach Bobby Young receives a comemmorative letterman’s jacket as the school named the gymnasium in his honor on Jan. 28, 2022.
Former Columbia High girls basketball coach Bobby Young receives a comemmorative letterman’s jacket as the school named the gymnasium in his honor on Jan. 28, 2022.

Young called Friday night like a “family reunion” as he was able to mingle and interact with so many that he touched in his 38 years of coaching. The school presented him with a lettermen’s jacket with his name and state championships he won on it.

Young won 641 games and built the Columbia High girls basketball program into a powerhouse before retiring in 2020. His teams won five state championships and appeared in three other title games. He had one stretch in which his teams won more than 20 games for 20 consecutive seasons.

Before the unveiling, a ceremony was held in which former players, state representatives, pastors paid tributes through videos or speeches to honor Young, who coached at the school for 38 years before retiring in 2020. Some of Young’s former players brought their old Columbia basketball jerseys and took pictures in them with their former coach.

Former Lee Central girls basketball coach Dorothy Fortune was in attendance and posed for a photo. The two combined to win more than 1,400 games in their coaching career.

Former North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell and NBC “Today Show” host Craig Melvin, a Columbia High grad, also sent video tributes.

“I would say it is an honor quite frankly long overdue but certainly well deserved,” Melvin said during his video. “The place that coach Bobby Young helped put on the map should bear his name. I don’t think you fully realize or appreciate the sheer number of young people that you influenced in a positive way. You weren’t just a teacher, you weren’t just one of the best girls basketball coaches. You shaped and molded countless young minds.”

One of those he had an impact on was Tawanya Herbert, who was Young’s first Division I signee and played at Iowa State. Herbert was the master of ceremonies on Friday and reflected on the importance of Young in her life.

Herbert said still takes lessons she learned from Young and still applies them to her life.

“Always push and press forward. That is one of the things that I have taken in life. I have been knocked down a few times but always persist and do your best,” Herbert said. “... He impacted so many people and it does my heart so good to see everyone. I have seen people who played before me and played after. The legacy that coach has left is amazing.”

That legacy won’t be forgotten and will have a permanent place on campus with his name etched on the wall above midcourt behind the benches.

“As long as people come back and see that name, it will bring back fond memories,” Young said. “Oftentimes, when people get old and they retire, people forget them. But to have your name on a building, it really keeps the legacy going.”

Former Columbia High girls basketball coach Bobby Young looks on Friday as the school named the gymnasium in his honor on Jan. 28, 2022.
Former Columbia High girls basketball coach Bobby Young looks on Friday as the school named the gymnasium in his honor on Jan. 28, 2022.
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