A very special man died last week here in the region. If either of you didn’t know Lou Mott, you missed out on one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Lou would stop by the Wetzel Chronicle office occasionally just to talk about the young athletes in the area. He was never negative and always had a kind word for the coaches and athletes in the area. He was a sportsman, he liked to play during his day and liked to watch later.
A few years ago he stopped by and wanted to know if I was going to the regional volleyball tournament in County Ritchie. We decided to go and I’m glad we did. I learned a lot about him on this trip. He had a lot to say and it wasn’t all about him. While there is a lot to be said about his skills as a former basketball and baseball player at Pine Grove High School, he wanted to talk about today’s teams.
It seemed like he was more interested in today’s children than himself. I asked him several questions about his playing days, but the conversation always revolved around how good today’s athletes are compared to then.
Lou was a fascinating person who, in his heyday as a basketball player, could get along with the best. He had great stories to tell about his playing days at Marshall University. One of my favorites, and I bet a lot of you have heard it, was when the herd went to Cincinnati, Ohio, to play against the Bearcats. Throughout the story he has come face to face with all-time Bearcats star and later NBA star Oscar Robinson.
According to Lou, he played an excellent defensive game. “I did pretty well against him, held him to 38 points.” Lou also said he sent Oscar to the foul line with a bit of a rough defense. He said Oscar turned around and said, Mott, you see all these people here, they came to see me play. Lou who was never lost for words responded with,“Oscar, do you see those two people up there in the cheap seats?” It’s my mom and dad, they came to see me play.
Lou was a top goalscorer at Pine Grove High School where he posted a state record of 2,117 points, becoming the first player in West Virginia history to accomplish that feat. He then played on the West Virginia / Ohio High School All-Star team against Kentucky in tournament play. Lou was named captain of the team which also included former WVU and NBA great Jerry West.
In terms of accolades, he is a member of three Halls of Fame. The Wetzel County Hall of Fame, the OVAC Hall of Fame and the Marshall University Hall of Fame. Although he is a member of the three for his achievements on hardwood, he could easily have been there as a baseball player. His skill in baseball led him to the fastpitch fastpitch leagues, where he competed in several world tournaments. Lou then served as West Virginia Commissioner for the International Softball Conference (ISC).
On a visit with Lou last year, he mentioned some of the great athletes we’ve had in the area. His mind was sharp and he remembered a lot that I had forgotten. I especially liked the way he spoke about the coaches in the region. He said he enjoyed coaching and mentioned working with his daughter LuAnn when she was in school. He said he was asked to help coach the boys’ basketball team here in Magnolia, but was later told he couldn’t help or sit on the bench due lack of coaching certification.
I remember he had a basketball camp every year in New Martinsville where I’m sure many local kids learned the proper shooting and ball handling skills. It’s not very often that men (or women) like Lou come, but when they do, there will always be those who will benefit from their skills and knowledge. I am saddened by his passing, just knowing him and seeing him often at a local basketball game has always made my day.
I enjoyed his visits to the office. Sometimes he would call, but however we spoke, I knew I would hear from two people in New Martinsville. He had a special affection and graditude for Bill Forbes and Mark Blair. He told me how Bill Forbes took him to Huntington for his academic achievement awards ceremony. He was very happy with it. He also told me how Mark Blair would take him to ball games. He said he really loved Mark and his son Zach. Lou said these two guys would do anything for him.
And last but not least, he still had a story to tell about his days at Rt. 20 playing basketball for the old Pine Grove high school. Lou always mentioned his teammates and coaches and talked about shooting basketball at an old rim on the side of a garage. He said he enjoyed playing against Paden City, and in particular against Gary Cochran who he said was the best in the county. Then with a smile he said:“Depending on who you talk to.”
Rest in peace my old friend whom you have made the pride of Wetzel County.