Bill White

He has coached basketball for 36 years. She has kept score at basketball games for 30 years. It all comes together each year as Bill and Bonnie White run the annual Greater Pocono Basketball Tournament for youngsters from fifth to eigth grades. More than 10,000 boys and girls have taken part in the tournament in its 32-year-old history. This year’s event started Feb. 28th with 46 teams in four divisions and will conclude with championship and consolation round games Saturday. The Whites will be honored for their dedication and commitment to the sport of basketball and the you of the community when they jointly receive the Al Keglovits Spirit of Basketball Award Sunday. The presentation will take place between games of the second annual Arthur Perryman All-Star Basketball Classic at East Stroudsburg University’s Koehler Fieldhouse. The top area high school senior players will compete in a girls’ game at 3 pm and a boys’ contest at 5. The whites took different routes to the basketball floor at the Stroudsburg Junior High School where the Greater Pocono tournament is now played. Bill grew up in Sayre, loved shop and had no intention of going to college. “My shop teacher convined me to go to school and I did. I applied to Millersville and they were full so I decided to go to Mansfield which was close to my home,” he explained. Bill studied government, law and history at the northern Pennsylvania school. He didn’t compete in varsity sports either in high school or college, but he says he alaways loved basketball and played a lot of intramurals. “In those days, there were no video games and things like that, you went out and played pickup games in all sports. That was our recreation,” he said. Right out of college, Billl got a job teaching history back home at Sayre High School. He got involved in coacing immediately by helping the head basketball coach. “I don’t know what my title was; I only knew I was helping. In those days, a lot of jobs you volunteered for and didn’t get paid,” he said. One of his original teaching colleagues was Bob Wert, who then took a teaching position in Stroudsburg. “Bob called me in the summer of 1967 and said there was an opening in the Stroudsburg School District. Dick Merring has left to go over to East Stroudsburg as a coach and I took his position as a junior high school teacher in seventh and eighth grades,” White said. White started helping George Metropolous coach the fifth and sixth grade basketball team at the Clearview Elementary School. They would play the other elementary schools in town. He then moved over to coach the middle school and then junior high school basketball team, a position he still holds even though he retired as a social studies teacher at Stroudsburg High School last year. In one of his first years as a coach in 1973, Bill entered a team the then-named Monsignor McHugh Tournament run by George Litz of the since-closed Pocono Central High School. That is considered the first Greater Pocono tournament, making this year, according to the Whites, the 32nd year, not the 31st as originally thought. “There only had a few teams then and we wound up winning the title,” said White. The next year, the current Bonnie White (she married Bill in 1991) came into the picture. The Stroudsburg native had attended ESU, received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 1973 and was teaching fifth grade at Clearview. “My first year, we had a boy in class, Eddie Gruzska, who made the Stroudsburg fifth and sixth grade all-star team and I drove him to the tournament. The following year in 1974-75, the middle school opened and Eddie played for Bill’s team and I started watching him play. I then volunteered to keep score at the games and I have been doing it ever since,” Bonnie said. The Greater Pocono Basketball Tournament was run by the late Stanley Lee at the time and was moved to Stroudsburg permanently in 1976. The Whites took over the complete operation a few years later. At first, it was just a fifth and sixth grade boys tourney. “We added seventh and eighth grade boys in 1979, seventh and eighth grade girls in 1980 and fifth and sixth grade girls in 1983,” said Bonnie, who now teaches sith grade remedial math at the Stroudsburg Intermediate School. Over the years, the field has included teams from all the Pocono schools along with teams from New Jersey, the Scranton area and as far away as Hamburg. One of the former tourney players, Tammy Reese of the Eldred, NY team later played in the WNBA after a competing at the University of Virginia. “Bob Salmi (former NBA coach and now an ESPN commentator), who is from Stroudsburg, has said it’s the biggest basketball even for middle school and junior high school boys and girls in the Eastern United States,” says Bill. The work on the tournament starts right at the beginning of the year, two months before the event. “I send letters out to the coach from every team from the previous year and I give them a form to fill out and a deadline for applying for the tournament. We also start to work on the ads for the program and on getting volunteers. Mark Slavin, whose sons played in the tournament years ago, takes care of all the trophies and the tournament finances,” said Bonnie. Bill then set ups a tournament schedule and gives a list of the games to Kevin Lewis of the local basketball officials association who assigns the officials. Trainer Kelly Unruh from the Stroudsburg Junior High School works the entire tourney. There are numerous other people who help with the 15-day event. Volunteer workers singled out the mention in 64-page tourney program include announcer Bud Ruhl and all-tournament team head Bill Robinson along with Judy Kohlmann, Heather Cail, Barb Kapcala, Elizatabeth Weekes, and John Benkoski. “It’s very time consuming. We spend 100s and 100s of hours on it,” said Bonnie, who is the scorekeeper for every tournament game. “It gets me through the winter, however, and when it’s over, I know spring is here.” The satisfaction of running the tourney, both Whites say, is seeing the young boys and girls enjoy themselves and improve as basketball players. “It’s cool. Sometimes a kid will tell us, they met someone their college dormitory who said ‘I remember playing against you in the Greater Pocono Tournament’. It happens all the time,” said Bonnie. “Most of the greater players from the area who star in high school and some in college played in the tournament,” said Bill. There are ten huge bulletin boards in the lobby of the Stroudsburg Intermediate School during the tourney with newspapers clippings highlighting the more than three decades of the event and the athletic exploits of former tourney players. The 2004 Greater Pocono Basketball Tournament will end Saturday with third-place games and 8am to 10:30 and the championship contests beginning from 11:45 am to 3:30 pm. After closing the gymnasium, the Whites will head home and when they arrive, Bonnie says they will turn on a television set and naturally, watch basketball. “We both like to watch college games, good fundamental basketball. Bill especially likes the ACC. We don’t like the pro stuff,” says Bonnie. Then Sunday, the Whites will get to watch basketball again, seeing many of their former Greater Pocono Basketball Tournament players close their high school careers in the Perryman Classic. And the players, coaches, and fans will get to say a big thanks to the 36-year basketball coach and the 30-year basketball scorekeeper for representing the spirit of basketball in the community.