LIBERTY. Mo. - It proved to be a tough night on the court as Liberty High School hosted the 42nd annual C.W. Stessman Liberty Invitational basketball tournament Thursday night. Not because of which teams won or lost, but because of whom they lost.
"It's going to be tough, real tough," said Liberty High School Head Basketball Coach Roger Stirtz. "He's been a fixture here for so long."
Jack smith served as the team manager for Liberty's basketball and football teams for 47 years. He graduated from Liberty High in 1967. He became a fixture at the school's sporting events, and was someone generations came to know, love and respect.
"Our athletes that got the privilege to interact with him, treated him just like they were his teammate," Stirtz said.
At Thursday night's tournament, the Blue Jays left an empty seat on their bench where Jack always sat. He was never paid, but he volunteered thousands of hours. He also traveled with the teams whenever possible.
"Our staff gave him rides everywhere. I've had assistant coaches, myself, give him hundreds of rides all over the place," Stirtz explained with a smile. "Not because we had to, but because we wanted to. We wanted him around us and that's a compliment to him."
The team honored Jack with a moment of silence in what turned out to be the first tournament he missed in his 47 years. Stirtz said this was one of Jack's favorite times of year.