Cave Spring assistant basketball coach Tim Myers was as easily recognizable at a Knights game as the basketball itself.
Myers’ contributions to the famous Cave Spring program were incomparable, and to those who knew him, his coaching style and techniques were keys to the program’s long-standing success. His devotion to the team, its coaches and the players who came through the program never wavered. Tim Myers bled the scarlet, black and white of Cave Spring.
Last week, after a long and courageous battle with a rare form of gastrointestinal cancer, Myers passed away at the age of 67.
Myers was on the bench at Cave Spring for over two decades, starting out when he asked former Knights coach Billy Hicks if he needed any help with the program. Myers began as a ninth-grade assistant coach.
When current Cave Spring head coach Jacob Gruse took over the Cave Spring program in 2014, after successful runs as head coach of Dan River High School in Ringgold, Va., followed by a pair of assistant coaching jobs at the college level, Myers was one of the first to come on board with Gruse.
“I was hired at Cave Spring and the principal, Steve Spangler, and athletic director, Jon Hartness told me about Tim,” Gruse noted during an interview this week. “I reached out to Tim and you could tell immediately his passion for the program. It only took me about 5 minutes to realize how valuable he was. And, it quickly became evident how much the kids loved him and how much the community loved him.”
“Tim’s greatest strengths as an assistant were his loyalty and his passion toward the Cave Spring basketball program. No job was too big, and no job was too small. He just brought so much with him.”
When Gruse came to Cave Spring in 2014, he brought along one of his long-time assistants at Dan River, Burt Sparks, who had been an integral part of a turnaround at Dan River that led to the Wildcats being a state Final-Four contender. Sparks recounted his first association with Myers.
“After Jacob took the job, we came up for the first workout and open gym,” Sparks recalled this week from his home near Danville. “We walked in there and we didn’t know anybody or anything about the community. Tim was there and he let us know about everything. I was wide-eyed about what he knew. It was obvious Tim was great with the kids and he kept us informed about the present team that was returning and the kids coming up. He knew the entire program inside and out.”
Sparks retired from the Cave Spring program after the 2017-18 season, but not before becoming close friends with his fellow-assistant.
“Tim and I developed a great camaraderie,” Sparks continued. “In the last two years I was at Cave Spring, I had developed back problems, so I would drive to the road games rather than ride on the school bus. Tim rode with me to avoid those bouncy bus trips, so he opened up to me about his health issues. Tim was a very private person and I really felt a close tie with him.”
One of Myers’ greatest assets to the team was the relationships he had with the players.
“Our players loved Tim so much because he could relate to them so well,” Gruse pointed out. “They knew he had so much vested in the program and he has validated it with four state championship rings along the way. He coached a lot of guys and has won games with a lot of guys.”
As a sportswriter and photographer for The Roanoke Star and Main Street Newspaper’s now-defunct “Cave Spring Connection” dating back to 2007, I became friends with Tim while covering Cave Spring athletics and basketball in those early days. Although Myers was quiet, serious and soft spoken, I knew how to make Tim laugh.
In 2009, a quirky series of coincidences led to me getting my first staff association with Cave Spring basketball. Few realized what was going down, but one that did was Coach Hicks. I had covered as the assigned writer about 75% of the Cave Spring regular season games, all of which Cave Spring won. Games that I was away covering other teams, Cave Spring had encountered their losses.
Heading into a tough postseason, Myers gave me the news after a district tournament win. “Coach Hicks wants to see you in his office. He thinks you’re a good luck charm.” I looked at Tim and said “A good luck charm? That’s what they sell at those cheap jewelry stores at the mall.” I never saw Coach Myers laugh so hard, but it punched my ticket to riding on the bus with the team for several games and all the way to a state championship in Richmond over a Brunswick team that was considered a prohibitive favorite. Myers was key in putting together a game plan to pull off the stunning win.
Cave Spring followed with another state championship in 2010 and another close association with Myers on those grueling bus trips to places like Bluefield, Tazewell and Richlands, all tournament rotation sites in those days. On one particular trip to play Graham on the G-Men’s home court in Bluefield, our bus driver was having more than a hard time with his directions and Hicks was getting aggravated with the delays. Suddenly, the bus turned onto a one-lane gravel road that was heading into a mobile home park. Myers looked at me and commented, “You’ve covered games in these areas before. Do you know where to turn?” I answered, “No clue, Tim, but I feel fairly confident this isn’t an entrance to a major basketball facility.” Myers howled.
When Gruse came to Cave Spring in 2014, I headed to the gym to meet the new head coach and Tim was already on the court directing drills. It took me less than five minutes to realize Cave Spring had the perfect guy in Gruse, and when he opened the door to me joining his staff, I quickly pushed my foot in and never stepped back. I would be joining Gruse, Myers and Assistant Derrick Roth on the bench of one of the top high school basketball programs in the state. It was a privilege to sit beside Tim Myers during a game.
Although Myers sat out two seasons to deal with his cancer treatment, he remained a fixture in the stands across from the Knights bench. And, after Cave Spring’s tough loss to Northside in the 2019 Class 3 state semifinal at Roanoke College, Tim made one of his greatest speeches to the players after the game. He walked into the somber locker room and when Coach Gruse asked if he’d like to say anything, Myers told the team they had a great season and needed to learn from it.
“I think this team has a lot of potential for a great season next year,” he said. “Let’s get to work to get back here.” Truly prophetic in what would happen a year later.
No one was thinking that Myers would return to the sideline for the 2019-20 campaign, one that finished with a state championship and a 27-2 record that saw the most wins in Knights’ basketball history. But, by mid-summer Myers had announced he was coming back.
One of the best tributes to Tim Myers came in May when his wife, Teresa, called Jacob Gruse and requested a surprise birthday drive-by at their home in Penn Forest near the high school. Teresa said she knew Tim would be furious if he knew it was being planned, but she got him into the front yard under false pretenses. Players and coaches drove by in a parade of flashing lights and blowing horns to celebrate on their special coach’s special day. I slowed long enough for Tim to come to my window for a special gift, which I described as ‘something to wear and something that tears’. He opened up the package to find an Under Armour shirt and a roll of toilet paper, a rare gift du jour in the pandemic shortage.
The last time I saw Tim was in early-June at our team championship banquet at a farm in Botetourt County that facilitated social distancing. Tim proudly received his fourth championship ring. One of the players, Parker Huffman, thanked Myers during his senior good-bye speech, referring to Myers as “Old School” that drew plenty of laughter.
Tim Myers will never be forgotten in Cave Spring athletics and the Cave Spring community. A special coach with special talents that players and coaches admired, and a guy who made his players and fellow-coaches better people day after day. Gruse is planning a tribute to Myers with a special seat on the Cave Spring bench. A tribute that is well deserved for a guy that never wavered in his loyalty and passion toward the Cave Spring basketball program.