FAIRMONT, W.Va. — They’re coming from near and far to honor the coaching legend whose death rocked Marion County last week.
“It’s going to be unbelievable tonight,” former Fairmont State men’s and women’s basketball coach Joe Lambiotte told WAJR. “We got guys coming in from California who played for (Joe Retton) and all over the United States. They’ll all be here tonight — a lot of stories told and a lot of great memories. Just a super person. Just a giving person.”
Joe Retton, the winningest coach in college basketball history, died last Wednesday at age 87.
“I would tease and say he was a pretty good coach,” said son Dave Retton, who coaches basketball at Fairmont Senior High School,” but he was a lot better father. He was a lot better man, a lot better husband, grandfather, friend then he ever was a coach.”
“And that’s magic right there. That’s magic.”
Visitation at Fairmont State University’s Feaster Center is expected to draw in a crowds Monday ahead of the coach’s funeral Tuesday morning — where he’ll be interned at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Fairmont.
“I’ve had countless players say, ‘You know, I had a strong father in my life, but your dad was like a second dad to me,'” Retton said. “And I loved sharing my dad. Because I knew that I was always — and my brother — we were number one. Yet, we had a large extended family.”
Retton joked that his father wasn’t thrilled with his son’s pursuit of teaching — and even less so his pursuit of coaching.
“He was very proud that I coached,” a tearful Retton said. “He was hard on me — I mean in a good way.”
Lambiotte, who succeeded Joe Retton as the Fairmont State men’s basketball coach from 1985-89, called him influential both on and off the court.
“(He) influenced probably just about everything as far as living life, living it the right way, work ethic, and — of course — in the basketball situation,” he said. “I pretty much took everything from him how I taught basketball too.”
“I’ve known him all my life. He’s been a true mentor. Just a fabulous person.”
Dave Retton said there were a lot of people who would remember him for many different reasons.
“His personality, how he treated people, how he lived, he’s going to be greatly missed among his family, greatly missed among people of Fairmont, and just so many people — lives that they intersected,” Retton said.
But when it came down to the bottom line, Dave Retton said there were two words that would most accurately sum up life after Joe.
Brittany Murray contributed to this report.