Searching for a sign of Ron Wilson’s legacy at J.E.B. Stuart High School? Look no further than the top of the school’s gym: White letters adorn the red brick facade of the Raiders’ home gym. Those letters spell: “Home of Virginia AAA State Champions Girls Basketball 1987.”
Searching for a sign of Ron Wilson’s legacy at J.E.B. Stuart High School? Look no further than the top of the school’s gym.
White letters adorn the red brick facade of the Raiders’ home gym. Those letters spell: “Home of Virginia AAA State Champions Girls Basketball 1987.”
Wilson arrived at Stuart from North Carolina in 1973. Since then, he’s coached boys hoops, football and track and field. He is still the girls track coach.
But it is his work with the girls basketball team in the mid-’80s that inevitably stands out the most, and when discussing basketball, he talks about 20-year-old games like they were yesterday.
Wilson took over the program for the ‘83-’84 season. Behind the play of legend Penny Moore, the Raiders made the state AAA finals in the ‘85-’86 season, only to lose to South Lakes 40-38.
The ‘86-’87 team returned to the finals, defeating Floyd Kellam High 45-40 in triple overtime to win the state title.
But Wilson, who is stepping down as the head of the girls basketball program after 26 years, knows that a good coach’s most important legacy is realized in far more subtle ways, not in one great youthful moment, but day after day through the ensuing decades.
Wilson, 64, says that he’s proudest of “Seeing the young ladies develop into productive citizens.”
“After they graduate, they go to college. If they don’t go to college, they get jobs that are very productive. They have families. Every now and then I hear back from them.”
One challenge that Wilson regularly faced was not having a deep pool of players to select from. The school rarely benefited from a talented transfer.
Even in his last season, he had to disband the junior varsity team because too many varsity girls had suffered injuries.
“We had those players, but we never had a full squad,” said Wilson, who heads down to Richmond each year to watch the state finals. “Over the years, if I’ve had 10 girls the whole season, I was lucky.”
While Wilson’s legacy in hoops is evident in the gym’s trophy case, his greatest impact may be in the classroom. For 36 years he’s taught at Stuart as a special education teacher.
“It’s been very rewarding, very fulfilling to teach those kids and see them out later on in life,” Wilson said. He added that he never seriously considered switching from special education, citing the small classroom sizes and the impact he had.
“Anyone who knows anything about coach Wilson knows what he’s done for female athletes in the area,” said Stuart Director of Student Activities Brian Garvey. “He put a lot of time into it and made a difference in the lives of a lot of girls.”
Garvey has been at Stuart for five years, and this is his first as DSA.
“He’s been a support system for me,” Garvey said. “He knows J.E.B. Stuart, he knows the community. He’s my go-to guy.”
Though in a relationship, Wilson has never married and has no children. “All my kids are here, either in classes or in sports,” he said.
He also stresses that though he’s stepping down as head girls basketball coach, he’s not retiring from teaching altogether. Not yet, anyway.
“I can’t get out of that,” he said, smiling.