McKenzie#8217;s life filled with athletic success

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2007

DEERING — His resum/ reads like a highlight film, and for a good reason.

Jim McKenzie, one of the most celebrated athletes of his time, died Friday at the age of 73 and left behind a storied career.

McKenzie made his name in basketball at the high school, college and professional levels, along with outstanding success in golf.

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Tim Collins, a former basketball official, worked some of McKenzie’s games as a basketball coach and had nothing but praise for the late coach.

“Jim McKenzie was a heck of a coach. He was always in the game. And he was a great disciplinarian. With him, it was his way or the highway,” said Collins.

McKenzie, who played his high school basketball at Catlettsburg, Ky., went to Rio Grande College and played on the same team with the legendary Bevo Francis.

Although Bevo garnered all the national press, McKenzie was quietly doing his job so well that he eventually played professionally with the Washington Generals, the traveling opponent for the Harlem Globetrotters.

McKenzie’s son, Jim, said the Generals would often beat the Globetrotters easily in practice, but they were never allowed to do the same in the exhibition games for fans.

A member of the Athletic Hall of Fame at Rio Grande, McKenzie was a member of the 1952-53 NAIA National Championship team that is considered the greatest small college team of all-time.

The team had a 39-0 record.

In one game against Villanova being played in Philadelphia, McKenzie hit four of his first five shots from center court and ended the game with 25 points in an era that did not have the 3-point goal.

McKenzie was interviewed by ESPN last November for a story by ESPN Classic regarding the great Rio Grande team.

McKenzie is also a member of the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.

He serves as the boys’ basketball coach at South Point, Wellston, Rock Hill, Symmes Valley and Boyd County, Ky., as well as the girls’ coach at Coal Grove.

At Boyd County, McKenzie was the first coach to take the team to the state tournament. As a player, he earned all-state honors and had his jersey retired.

Although he had a great basketball playing and coaching career, McKenzie may have been known more as an outstanding golfer.

A lefty, McKenzie was a 13-time Ohio Lefthanders golf champion and won similar championships in six other states while also placing among the top 10 in the national left-handed tournament. He was the Ironton Country Club champion on numerous occasions.