From coaches to players, everyone felt the loss of John Welsh, whom
many would consider a local legend.
LDN sports writers were no
exception as both Justin Tierney and Jeff Benjamin set aside a
portion of their articles to remember a man who influenced Railer
basketball and helped make the team and its coaches what they are
In trying to put together a fitting tribute to a man so well
known and so highly regarded, LDN editors concluded that no one
could say it better than our two writers who know the game best and
knew the man who played a supporting role in Railer success.
Here are excerpts from Justin Tierney's Friday morning piece:
Perhaps no one in
the rich history of Lincoln Railer basketball had as wide a range of
experiences as Welsh. He was an assistant to four Lincoln coaches:
Loren Wallace, Cal Hubbard, Don Fults and Neil Alexander.
Perhaps the most
astounding connection between Welsh and the Railer basketball
program, though, comes when examining the program's most decorated
players. On the list of the top 15 scorers in the history of the
program, Welsh can be connected to nearly all of them. He coached
the likes of Chuck Verderber, Geoff Alexander, Don Aeilts, Paul
Kendrick and Larry Lessen.
He coached the
fathers of Jordan Nelson, Ben Brackney and Brandon Farmer, and he
coached with Alexander, whose son Gregg is the school's all-time
leading scorer. He also coached Joe Cook, the brother of Norman Cook
and the uncle of Brian Cook. His son, Pete, was a starter on the
2006-07 team that has a school record for wins in a season,
alongside Farmer and Matt Schick.
In an interview
with friend and longtime area radio announcer Sam Madonia in 2011,
Welsh said he originally didn't know how long he would stay at
Lincoln Community High School, thinking he might pursue a head
coaching job somewhere else. But instead, Welsh came to love the
role of assistant coach on Loren Wallace's staff, where he was known
as the jovial jokester on the staff.
"The head coach has
to do certain things," said Welsh in that interview, which was
posted this week by Tim Rogers on a Facebook page titled "Lincoln
Railers Forever." "The assistant coach is always able to put his arm
around them, comfort them and joke around in the locker room."
Asked about his
former assistant this week, Neil Alexander said Welsh was more than
just a comforting assistant coach. Alexander heralded Welsh as a
"John was very
instrumental and he has a lot to do with the tradition of Lincoln
basketball," said Alexander, who coached with Welsh from 1990 until
1995. "I learned more about our 1-2-2 defense from John Welsh than
any other person. He had the most influence toward me on that side
of the ball as anyone. He knew defense. He worked with Coach
credits Welsh for welcoming him to the community as an outsider in
1990. It was Welsh, Alexander says, who impressed upon him the
tradition of the Lincoln program and its importance to the
"He taught me the
basketball side of it, but he also taught me the tradition of Railer
basketball," said Alexander. "How things were done, how people
thought, how people's kids thought. I got that whole lesson from
him. I'm just very grateful to have had him."
[to top of second column]
Jeff Benjamin also commented on the loss of Welsh and the tribute
paid to him during the Friday night Railer game:
In a moment of full
disclosure, I have to admit that this article took a while to get
going. How to convey all the emotions that enveloped Roy S. Anderson
on Friday night? What catchy way to grab your attention, leading
into discussion about the Railer victory? But, as I generally do, I
go back to some of the lessons my dad taught me, and one hit me
square in the face: Get to the point and make it.
John Welsh will be
As Justin Tierney
so effectively pointed out in his preview article, you can't get too
far in a trip to Railer Nation without finding something that was
touched by John Welsh.
"He had more impact
on me than anyone else here at Lincoln," coach Neil Alexander said
after his Railers picked up their 24th win of the season, a 58-42
win over SHG. "It was a sad day when he (Welsh) left us."
Welsh was honored
before the game as the Railers and their coaches stood in front of
the Lincoln bench. As PA announcer Steve Sauer seemed to choke back
his own emotions, Welsh's attributes and involvements were noted as
a solemn crowd listened. As Sauer finished his remarks, a full house
at Roy S. Anderson came to its feet as one for a standing ovation in
tribute to a man who is as responsible as anyone for the tradition
of Lincoln Railer basketball.
John Welsh's influence in the Lincoln community extends beyond
As a member of the District 27 school board, Welsh promoted
basketball for all age levels. He encouraged young people to get
involved in the game as well as the schools themselves.
It was Welsh who promoted the idea of a Trojan Basketball
Tournament in Lincoln for young athletes from all over the state.
The tournament has grown into an event that is good not only for
the schools and their athletes but also for Lincoln as a whole. Each
year literally thousands of out-of-town guests arrive in Lincoln for
the two-day event. The tournament is open to boys and girls from
third grade through eighth grade. Games are played nonstop at
Carroll Catholic, Central School, Lincoln Community High School,
Lincoln College, Washington-Monroe and West Lincoln-Broadwell
schools on both days.
That tournament will take place this weekend, and coaches,
players, family and fans will flock to town, taking up space in
motels and filling the tables and booths of local eateries. During
downtime, they will shop, visiting retail businesses in the heart of
the city as well as on the town's west end. It is good, very good
for everyone, and it all came from one idea, one man, John Welsh,
who said, "Let's hold a tournament."
In addition to all this, Welsh also worked with other sports,
including golf, swimming, football, track and baseball. He
participated in 2004 in a fundraising golf tournament for Abraham
Lincoln Memorial Hospital and came out on the winning team. He was
part-owner of the Lincoln Dairy Queen, a summertime gathering spot
where folks sat outside in their cars or at tables, enjoyed a cool
treat, and spent time with family and friends. He also served on the
Junior High Booster Club and pushed for a concession stand at the
ball diamond for the club, and he was a member of the local Elks.
So, what makes someone a local legend? By definition, a legend is
a person or thing that inspires. By our own definition, a local
legend is someone who leaves behind contributions to our future,
someone who helped lay the groundwork for what is yet to come. In
the world of Railer basketball as well as many other venues, using
the word legend next to the name John Welsh is certainly