Honoring Coach Lyons, From A Player And Coach Who Knows Him Best

Photo: A collage of memories with Coach Paul Lyons.

by Adam Pritchard
Varsity Boys Basketball Coach
Belmont High School

In 1978, I first started my career in Belmont Basketball when as a third grader I was signed up for the Belmont Youth Basketball Association.  It was in its second year of existence and I fell in love with the sport. In those years following, my mom was running a needlepoint store in Belmont Center. Saturdays I would get dropped on at the high school with a bag lunch and told: “I’ll pick you up around 5:30.” Maybe it was free babysitting for her, but for me, it was the place I looked forward to hanging out at all week.

That summer, after playing organized basketball for the first time, my mom signed me up for a summer camp at Belmont High school run by the Varsity Coach Paul Lyons. It was then that I met one of the most influential people I would ever meet. I can’t say I remember much, memories are fleeting and have their own life, but I do remember coach saying my name and having me demonstrate a shooting form drill with some of the older high school players. I remember being told to “reach up into the cookie jar” and “keep your eyes on the rim.” Its hard to put to words the feelings that go into a moment like that, but I know it made me proud and wanting to work towards improving. I wanted to be part of Belmont Basketball. I wanted to hear Lyons call my name out on that court again.

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Following that camp, I committed to basketball. It was a love and the thing I wanted to do more than anything else.  It was my passion and that court was my home.  The court is where I tried out for Varsity.  Its where Coach Lyons met with me to tell me I was cut as a sophomore (a very difficult day).  It’s also where I was named a Varsity player as a junior (a great day),  named me captain as a senior when the other captain (my best friend) got injured.  Its where Coach told me why I wasn’t starting and later told me that I would start.  Its where I learned countless phrases like “success is a journey, not a destination” and “we over me,” “there is no ‘I’ in team” and “be a helper.” It’s where Belmont High School players for 25 years, in practice, would make a steal, an assist, a score, a rebound, or anything positive and here coach boom out… “NICE PLAY!”

Lyons introduced me as freshman coach in 1991, providing me a start in coaching and tutelage to work for one of the finest basketball minds I have ever met. His knowledge of the game was (and is) unparalleled and his teachings of sportsmanship and playing with integrity have been an example for countless players who had the opportunity to play on his teams.  As an assistant, I witnessed the care, precision, preparation, and fairness through which he helped develop players.  He was a master coach.

The Main Court is where I have had the privilege of coaching the Belmont High Boys Varsity for the past 19 years. As varsity coach, I have seen the lasting impact of Paul’s coaching on alumni, current players, and those kids who have been lucky enough to have him as a youth coach in recent years. Every year, I open the season with a call or calls to Lyons – his wife will verify if you need it.  Those calls continue throughout the season because the one thing I know is that I have the greatest resource a coach could ever have and I have so, so much more to learn still. More importantly, the blessings of his mentoring have only been exceeded but his generosity and friendship.

Simply put, I’m a very fortunate coach.

Proudly, with great thanks to the Belmont School Committee, and the support of our Marauder Basketball Association, The Belmont Youth Basketball Association, the Belmont Boosters, the Belmont High School Athletic Department staff, and thousands of basketball players, girls and boys alike who have played BYBA and for Belmont High School, I am honored to be able to coach the inaugural game on Friday, February 8, at 7:30 p.m. vs. Reading Memorial High School, on “COACH LYONS COURT”.

It will be one one of my most cherished moments as a Belmont coach and I hope you are there to share it with me.

Lyons Den: School Committee OKs Naming HS Court After Former Coach

Photo: The court at the high school is now named after Belmont resident Paul Lyons. 

Belmont High School indoor teams will be playing at a “new” home as the Belmont School Committee at its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8 voted unanimously to name the playing surface in the Wenner Field House after Paul Lyons, the legendary high school basketball coach and resident.

Calling the honor “worthy and timely” for a man with great values, Belmont School Superintendent John Phelan noted the naming comes a quarter century after Lyons led Belmont to its only basketball state title in 1994.

The campaign to name the court after Lyons was led by David Ramsey and Ralph Jones, two longtime members of the Marauder Basketball Association, who wanted to pay tribute to his coaching triumphs as well as supporting the game in town.

Phelan said a wall plaque will be dedicated to Lyons and the court named for him.

Phelan also revealed that as the new school building will be built around the field house and school’s Higginbottom Pool, the main court could be turned 90 degrees which will permit three full-sized courts to be located in the Wenner.

Campaign To Name HS Basketball Court After Legendary Coach Lyons

Photo: Paul Lyons at a recent Belmont High hockey game.

For David Ramsey, the proposal he and his colleague Ralph Jones are promoting “is a layup to me.”

Officials with the Marauder Basketball Association, Ramsey and  Jones believe it’s time for the town to honor one of its great coaches and residents, former Belmont High Boys’ Basketball headman Paul Lyons. And what more appropriate place than where he did most of his work.

If approved by the committee, the plan is to place a banner with Lyons name and achievements on the Wenner Field House wall and name the field house the “Home of Coach Lyons Court.” The campaigners said there would be no wording applied to the court surface, and the new name would only be mentioned when an announcer welcomes teams and fans to the site.

The pair came before the Belmont School Committee on Dec. 18 to have Lyons lionized for his sports leadership abilities and character. A one-time player at Boston College, Lyons coached the Belmont High boys’ basketball team for a quarter century and led them to the state championship in 1993 on top of five Middlesex League titles. By the end of his Belmont career, Lyons had racked up 335 victories (and 473 overall) and was installed in the Massachusetts Basketball Association’s Hall of Fame.

His legacy continues as one of the founders of the Belmont Youth Basketball Association in 1977 and the Marauders Basketball Association in 1986 which has supported both the high school teams as well as introduced thousands of elementary and middle school-aged children to the game. Nearly all the players of the current undefeated boys and girls high school teams started playing hoops in the BYBA.

But Ramsey and Jones also said they wanted Lyons to be known for how he coached, always with sportsmanship and teamwork in mind. 

“He was very competitive and always wanted to win, but [Lyons] did so with a great deal of class and integrity,” said Jones, who is a former selectman and noted local basketball historian whose daughters played.

The committee, as its policy, would not respond to the motion at last week’s meeting. According to district policy, the School Committee has sole authority over naming or re-naming buildings, interior facilities and grounds to a person whose “work or service has contributed significantly to the Belmont Public Schools or to the Belmont community.”

As for Lyons, he continues to display his modest demeanor when pressed during a chance interview at the Belmont/Woburn hockey match Saturday, Dec. 22 at the Skip.

“We’ll see,” he said.