Moss remembered as hoops pioneer

By Jim Dabbelt

It was quite a shocking Wednesday afternoon as I sit in my office at work reading the text I had just received around 2:30.

My plans were to head to Urbana High School that evening to cover their game against Tecumseh, and discuss the plans for the Underclass All-Star game with Urbana coach Bill Moss, who worked with me to host the event at his school the first two years of its existence.

As I looked at my phone that afternoon, I just sat there and had to collect myself with the news I had just gotten. Their game was cancelled that evening after Moss was found unresponsive at school and had to be rushed to the hospital.

Then the worst possible news hit around 4:15…. he didn’t make it.

All I could think about was the players he had coached and continues to coach, his family and friends. And let me tell you, his friends list in the game of basketball was extremely large.

I ended up just going to watch the Tipp/Butler game that night because it was close, and my mind wasn’t on basketball. But I had to get out of the house and realized that sitting in a gym was my safe place, and even though I wasn’t into the game, it gave me some peace with what had happened. I think the best remedy for me was getting a chance to talk about his life on the radio that night, as I was on the halftime show of the Gem City Sports Network as they were broadcasting the game at Tipp.

It was truly a nice chance to clear my mind and talk about a guy who gave his life to the sport. It’s easy for someone to say that a person has done a lot for the sport, but very few of us will ever spend his LIFE trying to better the sport and help the kids.

In a world where there are so many “experts” who come into the sport every year and demand immediate respect and praise for “helping the kids” as they call it, Moss was a guy who was respected by everyone and really did do it for the kids’ sake. There was never a doubt about that.

If all that people saw was an Urbana program struggling to win the last several years, they would not know the real Bill Moss. If all that people saw was AAU blossoming with a lot of teams and success, they would not know because of what he built 30 years ago, Bill Moss is the reason for that. If all people saw was Bill Moss screaming at his players on the sidelines, they would not know how much he cared for each and every one of them. And the feeling was mutual.

He spent over 30 years of his life trying to bring the kids from Urbana High School into the gym and play for his team. He griped a lot because he was losing kids to other sports, and him and I laughed about that all the time.

And he did a lot of that…laughing. He always had that look on his face where he loved what he was doing. He had that grin that everyone loved. Another thing I respected him for is that when his teams would be suffering through a rough season, or saw a few tough years on the horizon, he didn’t walk away. In a world where the easiest thing to do is resign instead of dealing with less-talented players and try to make them talented. It’s easy to quit after winning state titles, or several good years before the cupboard dries out, but not Skeeter. He was on the sidelines every year, as either a state champion or suffering through a 2-15 start. The one time that I can remember that he recently did get so frustrated that he was going to quit, he quickly refocused to keep the ship afloat with the Hillclimbers.

But Skeet and I didn’t always see eye to eye. I can remember back in the early 90s, we were both doing AAU and often disagreed about players and rankings, and it was to the point where we struggled to get along sometimes. Strange how that works, because the last 15 years, he was one my closest friends in the game.

But one thing he did was earn respect. While I was making my rounds visiting with those at the viewing on Saturday morning, it was amazing to see whose lives he touched. I was joined by many of the biggest names in girls’ basketball history in Ohio who came to pay respect, and there was a reason for that… Bill Moss was one of the very biggest Ohio names in girls’ basketball history.

Moss was one of three people that should be credited for building this dominance in Ohio with his early years of AAU basketball from the 80s and 90s. The other people were Tuck Conner (Logan AAU/Team Ohio) and John Coffee (Dayton Lady Hoopstars/Team Ohio), who both have also been in the game for over 30 years with a ton of success. Both were there on Saturday. There were also college and former college coaches in attendance.

Also there was the most decorated player in Ohio history; three-time Olympic Gold Medalist and the all-time leading scorer in women’s’ professional basketball history Katie Smith. Brian Agler was there, the four-time World Championship coach, most recently with the 2016 LA Sparks. One of his greatest ever Kelly (Lyons) Cash was there, as good as any post player to ever suit up in Ohio. It hit everybody hard, because he worked so hard and meant to much.

His former players also were there and it hit them the hardest. Jannon Roland from his second state championship team (1993) was there, Kaley Moss, Michelle Derr, Morgan Harrigan and his most recent superstars Trischa Lacy and Hunter Rogan were all there that I had the chance to catch up with. That is the hardest place to reconnect with people in that kind of setting, but it was good that they could all begin to heal together.

A couple of memories about Bill Moss:

– Back before today’s watered down Combines, Shootouts and Showcases was the Midwest Shootout, which ran back in the early 90s at Urbana High School. Still to this day, the Midwest Shootout is considered the best event of this era. Bill would have kids from everywhere, hitting up all states in the Midwest and there were college coaches everywhere. In fact that was the first time I had met Pat Summit who was sitting up in the corner of the auxillary gym watching the talent. I will never forget that and still to this day when I go back in November for his big scrimmage every year, I could picture the Shootout when I walked into that gym.

– His Urbana AAU teams were the best in Ohio every year. They were the standard setters for players to want to play for. That was a different era for summer basketball. You actually had to be really legit to get to play AAU. I can remember sitting on the bench with Logan AAU in 1991 at Miami East High School when they played Urbana for the state title game. That Saturday morning, Logan won in a great game and Katie Smith dropped 39 in the title game for Logan.

– Proudly the greatest memory I have with Bill is creating the Miami Valley Underclass Girls Basketball All-Star game 3 years ago, which brought together the best non-seniors in the Dayton area. It quickly became the standard setter for those types of games across the state as non-D1 college coaches packed Urbana High School (reminded me of the Midwest Shootout!). It has blossomed into an amazing event, and this season it will be held at Edison State College in Piqua, under a new name: the Bill Moss Memorial Underclass All-Star Game.

We lost a great one: a fierce competitor, a respected coach and a basketball pioneer and innovator.