Tillsonburg Livvie cornerstone Bill Coulthard is being posthumously inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Bill is well deserving of the induction,” said former teammate Harry Wade, of Tillsonburg. “Bill was a wonderful teammate and a very, very good basketball player.”
Coulthard will join Gerry Livingston, founder of the Livvies in the hall. Coulthard played college basketball at the Detroit Institute of Technology and then returned home to Canada to play at the senior men’s level for Windsor Assumption College, taking home Eastern Canadian championships in 1946 and ’47.
In today’s parlance, Coulthard would be described as a shooting guard, a particularly apt term says Wade.
“He could sure shoot a basketball.”
Livingston would consummate a dream of putting together a national champion basketball team by hiring talented basketball players to work at Livingston Wood Products, and simultaneously play for the Tillsonburg Livvies.
Coulthard would prove an early and significant prototype of this approach, coming onboard and remaining a core performer with the squad which ultimately formed the basis of the 1952 Canadian Olympic team at Helsinki.
“There’s no question about it, he was ‘the man,’” credited Tillsonburg basketball coaching legend Brian O’Rourke. “He is a worthy choice to be in Canada’s Basketball Hall of Fame.”
Every player on the squad was talented, said O’Rourke, and many built their own reputations, such as Red Curren or Wade, for making huge, pressure shots which advanced the Livvies through their championship quest.
“But Bill was the unquestioned star of the team.”
O’Rourke recalls reading The London Free Press columnist Bob Gage’s accounts about the exploits of Coulthard and the other Livvies while he was growing up in Chatham. It’s hard to overestimate the importance the Livvies’ runs (a second team made it to the Olympics in 1960) had in the community at that time.
“If they played in town on a Friday night and somebody robbed a bank, no one would have known until Monday morning,” O’Rourke laughed.
As good a basketball player as Coulthard was, he was equally a good husband to wife June and five children, says O’Rourke – all five offspring successful contributing members of society in their own right on and off a basketball court. “That’s what life’s about.”
Wade, another Livingston hire, worked and played with Coulthard.
“And we were also neighbours,” Wade said. “We had a lot of good times together.”
A ‘very important’ part of the team in the early 1950s, Coulthard was a ‘straight arrow,’ says Wade, and a steady-going guy.
“A worthwhile addition to the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.
“He was a terrific basketball player, excelled at many levels and was the father of several younger very important basketball players in Canada.”
All five Coulthard children enjoyed basketball, Carol and Betty in high school, and Bruce, Chris and David (named Canadian collegiate player of the year in 1979 and 1981) at university and the national-team level. Many of Bill and June’s 14 grandchildren also have played said David, who says the entire family is enjoying a ‘very proud moment,’ with the induction announcement.
“To us, he was just our dad,” he said, noting much of family life was just that, family life. And although basketball was always ‘kind of there in the background,’ Bill never pressured his children to follow in his footsteps on the court.
“He gave us lots of room to do the things we wanted to do.”
Growing up with familiar family stories of the Livvies, David says they were kind of ‘life as we knew it,’ and it wasn’t until he and his siblings became older, they realized the full impact of Tillsonburg’s and their own father’s basketball legacy.
“You start to realize the impact of that team and what they achieved, particularly for a small community at that time. That really makes it quite a memorable accomplishment.”
Anecdotally, both O’Rourke and David Coulthard have heard Bill was pioneer in Ontario with regards to shooting a modern one-handed jump shot, versus the historical two-handed set shot approach. All-state in Michigan with DIT, Coulthard had to convince the Assumption coaching staff his, for the time, unorthodox approach could be effective, which he ultimately did.
“He was pretty deadly with it,” said his son.
Details on the 2013 induction ceremony are still to be announced, although David says it often occurs in Almonte, Ontario, home to the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame and birthplace of Dr. James Naismith.
Summing up, David says the Coulthard family’s appreciation of their father’s contribution to the sport has matured along with his children, who appreciate this well-deserved honour.
“We as a family just very proud it has happened and are thankful he’s going in.”