Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. - When Bill Blanton settled in to retirement at Osage National, he expected to play golf and relax. He never thought he would get back into coaching basketball.
A room full of trophies, plaques and pictures in Blanton's house showcase a lifetime of coaching and playing, a 37-year-career filled with honors and countless memories. Blanton has led four teams to the Final Four, accrued 12 District Titles, numerous District Coach of the Year Awards, and boasts a career record of 681-321. He is currently ranked 9th in all time wins in Missouri Basketball history.
Blanton's philosophy on the court comes from a variety of coaches before him.
"Frankly, everything I do, I have stolen from the best coaches," Blanton said.
Dean Smith from North Carolina is Blanton's ideal role model, and he has always tried to structure his teams and coaching in a manner similar to that of Smith's.
But Tuscumbia proved to be too convincing for the coach, and he accepted their open position, filling their need for a basketball coach this coming season.
Blanton was approached about taking the job earlier on, and was hesitant.
"I told them I wasn't interested in getting back into coaching," Blanton said. "I've been retired for three years now. I love the game, I love the kids, but I've been to the mountaintop. But there's a calling that God gives us all, certain things that we do really well. I don't know if I coach well, but my relationship with the kids is pretty good, and I'm able to motivate them."
Blanton had decided that he would meet with Tuscumbia, and he set a bar of expectations, a checklist in his head of the things he would require before accepting the position.
"I told myself, that if they met ten of those, I would take it," Blanton said. "They met all fifteen conditions."
Blanton first began his journey in the world of basketball in his hometown of Kansas City, where he would play pick-up games with fellow kids.
When he got to high school, he was already making himself known, becoming a dominant player on the court.
After graduating, Blanton went on to play at Central Missouri State University (currently UCM in Warrensburg), before transferring out after playing for a new coach for three years.
"No Blanton had ever gone to college," Blanton said. "Basketball was the vehicle that got me there."
Blanton eventually signed up for the Navy, where he played for the All-Navy team and the All-Inner Service team, before he blew his knee. After being told that he would never play again, he met his future wife, who nursed him back to health and supported him as he worked his way back to playing. He eventually made it back into the game, and played two more years of college ball at Tarkio College.
Page 2 of 3 - "Basketball had always been there for me," Blanton said. "And I thought, well, what am I going to do now that I'm graduated?"
Basketball once again was there for him, as he took his first coaching job was at Tarkio College as assistant men's basketball and baseball coach in 1972.
A year later, he had his first head coaching job at Osborn High School in 1973, where he coached for three seasons as both boys and girls coach.
He then spent five years as the head basketball coach at Lousiana, Mo., one year at South Iron County and a year at Jefferson City before taking the job in Fulton. Over his six years at Fulton High School, he managed to take the school to its first Final Four appearance in 1987. His career there finished in 1989 with a 126-55 record, four seasons in which they had 20 or more wins three consecutive conference championships, four successive district championships, with each time being named the conference and district coach of the year, respectively.
His next position came at Helias Catholic in Jefferson City in 1989, where he spent 11 years coaching the Crusaders. During his time there, he took the team to the Final Four twice, won five district championships and five conference championships. His record there finished with a final 215-90, and under his direction, the Crusaders had six seasons in which they had 20 or more wins.
Blanton moved on to Russellville for the next four seasons where his teams went undefeated in conference play during the 2002 and 2003 seasons and made a trip to the Elite 8.
Moving on to Laquey, Blanton spent five years coaching in which many school records were set, including two district championships,
three consecutive undefeated conference seasons (24-0) and a trip to the Final Four in 2009.
But now, basketball has come calling once again, and Blanton has decided to answer, and try to turn around Tuscumbia's basketball program, using the techniques and program he has used throughout his career.
Last season, the Tuscumbia Lions finished their season with a 6-19 record.
Now the little town with a population of 214 will have something to be excited about.
Tuscumbia, being a smaller Class 1 school, doesn't have the giant arenas of larger sized schools, but instead, their gym, with its hardwood floor and wooden bleachers, gives off the feel of an old historic basketball gym, which suits Blanton just fine.
In fact, Blanton and the team have been hard at work over the summer, playing in a summer league which Blanton started and hosts at Tuscumbia. The Lions' last game took place on Monday, July 15, with the team finishing up with a 20-11 record over the summer.
Blanton's style has at times been referred to as "Billy-Ball", which Blanton describes as "playing hard, getting dirty and doing whatever it takes to win".
Page 3 of 3 - Only time will tell how this move will work for both Blanton and Tuscumbia, but one thing is for certain: Blanton's record shows a winning track record over his illustrious career, and now, he and the Lions will be looking to build off of it for the foreseeable future.
Maybe, just maybe, 'Billy-Ball' is exactly what Tuscumbia needs right now.