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Ford City to honor legendary coach

For a man whose tenure as Ford City's boys basketball coach ended in 1966, the late Hube Rupert is remembered and revered.

This morning marked the start of the four-day Hube Rupert basketball camp, the yearly Ford City Alumni Association-sponsored event held in Ford City's Red Mihalik Gymnasium. Also, earlier this month, the association awarded its annual Hube Rupert scholarship to Ford City senior Krystal Dudas.

Soon, Rupert's name is going to be imprinted on the hardwood he used to prowl.

Armstrong School District has approved a resolution to name the floor at Ford City's home venue Hube Rupert Court. A dedication ceremony will be held July 9 at 7 p.m. to unveil two graphics on the court that will bear its new name. Former players, friends and the public are invited to attend the dedication. A reception will follow.

While Rupert won't be there to see it -- he died in 2006 at age 96 -- his daughter, Judy Fink of Kittanning, knows that her father would have accepted the honor graciously.

"I think he would be proud to have that happen," Fink said. "He spent a lot of time there. We had only one car when I was growing up, and I remember going down there and picking him up at 8 at night."

The long nights spent teaching the value of fundamentals and a strict adherence to playing defensive basketball made Rupert a legend among the local coaching ranks and throughout the region.

With a career record of 333-151 (.688), 11 section titles and three trips to the WPIAL finals, including a title in 1948, Rupert's resume earned him spots in the Armstrong County and Western Pennsylvania sports halls of fame.

To Ford City Alumni Association vice president Gene Lazaroff — a former shooting guard for Rupert in the late 1950s — it only made sense to dub the court after the coach.

"It's been on my mind for over a year," Lazaroff said. "He was just a legendary coach. This honor is long overdue."

Rupert began his coaching career at Ford City as an assistant in 1934 and took over as head coach in 1943, but just one season later left for two years to serve in World War II. Upon his return in 1946, he resumed building a dynasty — and he knew just how to do it.

"If you could not play defense, you could not play for Coach Rupert," Lazaroff said. "He always said there were two sides to a court — the offense and the defense."

A great mind for defense and an intense focus on scouting opponents helped Rupert stand out in his profession, but what Lazaroff most appreciated about his coach was his commitment to the classroom. Also a biology teacher at Ford City, Rupert didn't tolerate his players missing class or coming up empty-handed when it was time to turn in their homework.

"He cut you no slack," Lazaroff said. "He was ethical, he was a disciplinarian, but he was very fair."

He also made sure to take care of his players.

"He was very, very influential in this state," Lazaroff said. "He was very active on recommending his players and players from outside of Ford City to colleges, because he felt he had an obligation to help youngsters."

And as next month's dedication will show, people haven't forgotten the work he did.

"My dad took care of his basketball players. He got them scholarships and got them into colleges," Fink said. "This dedication, he'd be very proud to have this take place."

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