Mike Bossy has rarely met a basketball event he didn’t like.
But even under those generous qualifications, the Toronto Raptors’ Friday, February 21 home date against the Cleveland Cavaliers has a lot going for it.
The fact a resurgent Raptor squad will host two of the 10 Canadians (2013 first overall pick Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson, fourth overall in 2011) currently active in the NBA (of 24 in history) is fitting backdrop for Tillsonburg basketball legend Bill Coulthard’s halftime induction into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.
“It’s a great opportunity to share in a great Tillsonburg and Canadian basketball moment, and at the same time, have some fun,” said Bossy.
Coulthard was one of the first, and arguably most important building blocks in Gerry Livingston’s dream of building a Canadian basketball championship team in Tillsonburg. Lured to town with a job offer that included an understanding he would be playing on the Tillsonburg ‘Livvies’, the Windsor-area athlete was a Canadian pioneer of the modern jumpshot, and would be called a ‘shooting guard’ in today’s vernacular.
The five Coulthard children all played at a high level – David twice named Canadian university player of the year – a legacy that extended and continues to extend to Bill’s grandchildren. Inspired by the Livvies, a Coulthard family tradition also became a community tradition. At the time Bossy began coaching in Tillsonburg with Dan Rajnovich, the two counted 19 Gemini basketball program graduates active at the post-secondary level.
Livingston’s dream would become reality, with Livvies teams that formed the basis for the Canadian Olympic men’s basketball teams in 1952 and 1960.
“That’s an important part of Tillsonburg history that maybe a new generation needs to learn about,” said Bossy, who was first introduced to Coulthard, along with Livvies teammates Harry Wade and Martin Fabie as youth basketball instructors, larger than life figures giving back to their community.
“They were giants in more than just the physical sense,” said Bossy, who got to know Coulthard better after purchasing his first house in town on a street shared by he and Wade. Bill was a true gentleman, efficient both on the court and in his manner of speaking, says Bossy.
“When he spoke, I always stopped to listen because I knew there was a nugget of wisdom in there.”
When Bossy became aware Coulthard’s induction would be in conjunction with the February 21 Raptors game, he immediately bought tickets, before considering opening the experience up to the broader community.
“I thought ‘Hey, this is happening, why don’t we get a couple of buses?’”
‘Tillsonburg Day at the Raptors’ is the result, an event sponsored by the Bossy Nagy Group, Tillsonburg District Chamber of Commerce and Basketball Tillsonburg. One hundred and eight tickets, two coachloads, are available for the event at $100 each. They include a lower-bowl seat along with round-trip coach transportation from the Canadian Tire parking lot, departing at 3:30 p.m. to the Air Canada Centre. The price point comes as the result of a 30% Basketball Canada discount says Bossy, factored into the overall cost.
“They are pretty good seats.”
Initially, this year’s Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame inductees were to be honoured post-game, but Bossy found Basketball Canada officials amenable, based on the fact there was time for all three to be recognized at halftime, to moving ceremonies there in front of the full house.
“They thought that was a good idea,” he said. “If there was 12, you’d never get them done, but since there are three, they decided they could do it all at halftime.”
Livvies memorabilia will be onsite for the occasion, says Bossy, along with clips from the Livvies documentary created by former Tillsonburg point guard Pat Sheahan.
Tillsonburg Day at the Raptors tickets are available from Suzanne Renken at the chamber of commerce, or the Bossy Nagy Group office.
Bossy is looking forward to both the game and the event, largely as an opportunity to honour the memory of a man whose talents and legacy extended well beyond the confines of a basketball court.
“I know it’s late, but this is a way of saying thank you to somebody who made a huge contribution to not only basketball, but also Tillsonburg.”