By Tom Bone
For The Register-Herald
The old and the new converged Saturday at a Concord University gymnasium.
The playing floor in the main gym at the Carter Center was named the Christie/Cox Court in a ceremony honoring two coaches who led the Mountain Lions men’s basketball team from 1977 to 2011 in that gym, first used in 1973.
Don Christie guided Concord to 171 wins in 11 seasons, with two conference titles and two trips to the NAIA district playoffs. Steve Cox produced 336 wins and three conference championships in the next 21 years, including four trips to the national playoffs.
Christie, who was also a mathematics professor and was Concord athletics director from 1989-98, passed away on April 13. He was represented Saturday by his wife Jean and several family members.
Jean Christie, who was also an English professor at Concord, said, “It feels wonderful. I really have looked forward to this for quite a while.”
When she heard about the plans to name the playing surface, she said, “My first reaction was: Two men that well deserved it.”
Cox, who also had numerous family members on hand, said that sharing the honor with his deceased friend and mentor “really makes it doubly special. It’s a neat thing for anybody to get the court named after them, but Coach Christie was so special to us.”
Cox, hired in 1977 as Christie’s assistant coach, said, “I would never have been at Concord, and probably would never even have had a coaching career, had it not been for Coach Christie.”
“You’re very fortunate if you get to work with people that you like, and love, and we got to do it for a long time here together. It just seems like the time flew by.”
Concord athletics director Kevin Garrett presented Jean Christie and Cox with two framed panoramic photos of the Christie/Cox court during Saturday’s ceremony held between games of Concord’s doubleheader with Notre Dame College — the first home game for Concord in the new Mountain East Conference.
More than a dozen former basketball players, along with former cheerleaders and support staff, accepted the invitation of the CU athletic department and returned to the Carter Center to witness the ceremony and to attend a postgame reception.
Cox said, “It’s just a neat experience, and I am very, very proud, and just glad that the university decided to do this.”
Asked about the former players who had returned, Cox said, “You know, no coach ever won a game without players, and we had a bunch of good basketball players here, All-Americans, all-conference players.”
“(I’m glad) to get a chance to see them, and what productive adults they’ve become. ... They’ve been so successful. That makes me really proud. It’s great to see them. I appreciate them coming out.”