10.16.19 | News
Hugh Thimlar was a legend, humanitarian and leader in social change. He loved basketball, was a teacher of men and a Hall of Fame coach. It’s only fitting that this man who created the City of Palms basketball tournament will be honored in a special way with a game named for him at this year’s tournament.
The first Hugh Thimlar Tribute Game will be played between hometown Lehigh Senior High School and Venice High School at 4:45 p.m. Monday, Dec. 23 at Florida Southwestern State College as part of the Culligan City of Palms Classic.
As coach of then-Edison Junior College, Thimlar created a junior college national powerhouse over 26 seasons. Overall, the World War II veteran won 604 games over 40 seasons as a head coach in Indiana and Florida. He also founded the City of Palms tournament, called the News-Press Christmas Basketball Tournament, in 1973, with seven teams competing at Edison in a regional tournament.
“He put together the first News-Press Christmas Basketball Tournament and basically ran it for 12 years,” said tournament executive director John Naylor, who came up with the idea to honor Thimlar with the tribute game. “He was more than a basketball coach. He contributed greatly to sports awareness and probably to Edison’s presence in the community.”
Thimlar always talked with pride about his former players whether it was at the college or high school levels. His accomplishments were game changers, like:
He helped put Indiana and Kentucky high school basketball on the map in a special way as founder of the Indiana-Kentucky High School All-Star series that is still played today.
He was the first to have black players play in Kentucky for the Indiana team. He also was founder of the Hoosier Basketball Clinic. Thimlar was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.
His players won all-American and all-state honors, including Bill Hodges, who coached Larry Bird and Indiana State to the 1979 NCAA championship game where the Sycamores lost to Michigan State and Magic Johnson.
Off the court and in the classroom, Thimlar focused on academic success as 66 former Edison players went on to graduate from four-year universities.