“Great coaches affect the lives of their athletes long after they have stopped playing for them. They teach life skills within their teaching of sports, and they make their athletes better human beings.”
That was the opening statement of Mark J. Huelsman’s letter of recommendation for Bill “Skeeter” Moss being inducted into the George Scott Ring of Honor at Urbana High School in 2016.
Moss died suddenly on Wednesday at the age of 59, just hours before his UHS girls basketball team was to take the court against Tecumseh.
Urbana City Schools Superintendent Charles Thiel said that Moss had been found unresponsive in the basement level of the school Wednesday afternoon, with staff and responding medics unable to revive him.
Moss, the long-time girls basketball coach at Urbana, led the Hillclimbers to consecutive Division II state titles in 1992-93 and won 403 games despite the team struggling in recent seasons. During former WNBA player Jannon Roland’s career at UHS, Moss coached the team to a record of 100-9. He won three regional titles and took his teams to three state Final Fours. He also won five district titles, eight conference titles and produced seven 1,000-point scorers.
Moss graduated from Urbana High School in 1976 and had coached the girls basketball squad for 30 years, with another 14 on the football staff, 10 years as a junior high football coach, five as a freshman football coach, five as a softball assistant and one as a junior high basketball coach. He founded the AAU programs in the area and was instrumental in starting the elementary and traveling basketball programs.
He was Urbana basketball.
But he was also more than that.
Other players came forward to recommend him for the Ring of Honor in 2016, including former players Michelle (Derr) Stokes and Stephanie (Wearly) Henderson, both of whom would also join his staff at some point.
Their words are more poignant now than they were for that festive occasion in 2016, but they ring true all the same.
“Coach Moss’ prevailing philosophy was that each person on a team has an integral and important role to play,” Henderson, a member of the class of 1993, said. “More important than any coaching strategy or technique, I learned a good deal about what it meant to give oneself as a coach and how important that can be in a kid’s life. I can say that I came to more fully realize how fortunate I was to have had Bill as a coach.”
Stokes, a member of the class of 2006, spoke about Moss’ drive.
“As a player, though I didn’t always understand or appreciate it at the time, he instilled in us an unwavering work ethic,” she said. “His ability to get the most out of kids who are willing to put in the time is second to none.”
Moss’ death leaves a void in both the Urbana program and the community, with news of his death spreading quickly.
Christie Dodane, the head coach at Mechanicsburg and before that, Graham, took time to reflect on Moss’ legacy.
“It’s devastating. I think the girls basketball community is devastated,” she said. “I’ve known Skeeter for a long time, and over the years I saw how he really cared about his players. And he really tried to do a lot for them. People don’t realize how much of his life he gave up for his players and for that community. It’s a tremendous loss.”
Where the UHS girls basketball program goes from here is uncertain.
Thiel said he and athletic director Dan Shay, among others, will meet to determine the direction that the team will take.
“We haven’t had time to talk about what we’re going to do. We’ve got assistant coaches and other people I know would be willing to step in and help in honor and in memory of Bill,” Thiel said. “One of the things we’ll get to is how do we best support the student-athletes who were currently involved with him. In all the years that he’s been there, the number of students he’s been involved with is tremendous.”