Robert Wynn remains steady through history of tournament

Robert Wynn remains steady through history of tournament
December 21
07:00 2017

When the ball tips off at this year’s Lash/Chronicle Holiday basketball tournament, it will mark the 25th year of its existence.  Robert Wynn, coordinator and co-creator of tournament, has been there every step of the way.  He has seen the tournament develop from humble beginnings to one of the premiere sporting events in the city.

According to Wynn, the idea of the tournament came about through a conversation with a friend of his named Ike Howard.  He says the Frank Spencer tournament was going on and a discussion formed around what could be done for the junior varsity kids who are not able to play.

“After we talked, I went over and discussed the idea with [Clarence] “Big House” Gaines [of Winston-Salem State University] and he thought it was a very good idea,” said Wynn.  “He [Gaines] said there will be a lot of things besides basketball that will help these kids, such as keeping them off the streets, they will be doing something structured, the parents will know where they are and they will gain some experience for when they make it to the varsity level.”

They initially were going to name the tournament after Gaines, but he felt since he did not have any ties to high school basketball in the city, they would be better suited naming it after someone who did.  Wynn says David Lash was the obvious choice and when he approached Lash he was more than happy to lend his name to the tournament.

“I couldn’t think of anyone at that time that has had a greater impact on athletics in the community than David Lash,” said Wynn.  “He and his wife would attend every year up until his death and she continued to come until she was no longer able to.

Lash was a coach at Carver high school for 29 years and the main reason why the tournament is held there.  Outside of basketball, Lash was an accomplished tennis coach and taught many of the city’s best players.

David Lash passed away on April 11, 1996.  Lash was married to Wilhelmena Lash for 53 years prior to his passing.  Mrs. Lash recently passed away on Nov. 9 at the age of 96.

Wynn and Howard immediately went to work on the planning of the tournament for the following year.  The initial year they started off with six schools competing.  They accomplished all of this without help from any sponsors.

The next year Wynn and Howard went to Ernie Pitt, former owner and publisher of The Chronicle, and he agreed to sponsor the tournament going forward.  Wynn says he and Pitt were more concerned about getting people in the stands to have the opportunity to see their child or relative play versus turning a major profit.

“He told me he wanted to have people in the stands because he had seen many JV games with not many people in the stands,” Wynn said of Pitt’s vision.  “He wanted to have the games well-attended, which meant we were not going to charge an arm and a leg to get everyone in and I felt that was commendable.”

Wynn says they made concessions to make the cost of the tournament easier for family and friends such as not charging students who were not in school and families with more than five were only charged for three.

He says in subsequent years the tournament began to catch on and more teams wanted in.  He says in the past teams outside of Forsyth County were routine participants in the tournament.  As the newer schools began popping up around the county they also joined in.  Wynn went on to say that the tournament did so well Guilford County decided to follow suit and create a JV tournament.

Going forward Wynn says he would like the tournament to continue to grow in prestige and size.  He feels this tournament has given many young men around the county a chance to display their skills on a premiere platform.

“I feel really good about it because I have had a lot of help along the way,” Lash says about his thoughts on the tournament over the years.  “The athletic directors and coaches have been a great help over the years and enjoy doing what they can.”

“I also enjoy seeing some of the former players come back to the tournament to see the younger guys play.  Some of them are even coaching so my reward has been to see the tournament grow.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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