Text Only Skip to content
Skip header navigation.
Skip sub-section linksSTLCC Home » College News » 2012 » March » Nelson Honored by Former STLCC-Forest Park Players

Nelson Honored by Former STLCC-Forest Park Players

March 26, 2012

Former basketball players honored their coach, Bob Nelson, on March 24.  
A group of former St. Louis Community College-Forest Park basketball players held a reunion on March 24 to honor their former coach, Bob Nelson, right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you could pool the collective amount of talent assembled on Bob Nelson’s patio on March 24 into one team, you’d have a national tournament contender.

Led by a committee of former players, which included Glenn Marshall, Mark Beeks, Randy Reed, Bryan Moore and Derrick Phillips, 15 of Nelson’s squad members gathered at his home to honor the retired St. Louis Community College-Forest Park basketball coach.

The event was two years in the making, as Moore, Beeks, Reed, Marshall and Phillips began exploring ways to give back to the coach who impacted their lives in a positive way more than 30 years ago.

“There are so many coaches that we see are not honored properly,” said Moore, who played at Forest Park from 1978-80. “When you see how much love he put in to sports (at Forest Park), and what he put into us, how he taught us to play basketball and with all this passion, he cared about our lives and our lifestyles. You see the respect all these men still have for him, 30 years in the hole. We still think about this man every day.”

Nelson coached for 25 years at Forest Park, 19 years with the men’s team and six years with the women. Along the way, “Mad Dog,” as his former players affectionately know him, amassed a record of 509-240.

Hank Thompson and Bob Nelson  
Hank Thompson, left, presents a basketball signed
by all guests who came to honor  Bob Nelson, right.

Yet it’s the personal relationships built and the molding of futures that Nelson remains most proud of during his tenure. The fruits of his labor were clear to see at the reunion.

A Friend, a Leader, a Coach

Brian Troupe was headed nowhere – and fast.

A graduate of Saint Louis University High School, Troupe had gained an opportunity to play collegiately at Forest Park after a broken ankle suffered in high school quickly soured his prospects with larger programs. But it wasn’t long before Troupe found himself in trouble at Forest Park. After not playing his freshman year while his ankle healed, Troupe played in just three games his sophomore year.

Troupe, who admittedly had a “terrible” attitude and often found himself involved with the wrong crowd, was kicked out of his parents’ house and forced to provide for himself.

Troupe left the team to work at a local drug store, and often slept on the floor of an apartment rented by a group of Forest Park teammates.

With his future in basketball and in life in disarray, it was a phone call from Nelson that re-directed Troupe’s path.

“He said I shouldn’t be on the street and I ought to be in school,” Troupe said.

Despite playing only three collegiate games, Nelson had arranged a de facto tryout for Troupe, with Tennessee Tech assistant Ricky Brown, one of Nelson’s former players, in attendance. Troupe performed well, and the following fall, he was on his way to Tennessee Tech with a full scholarship in hand.

Today, Troupe remains in St. Louis, and is an agency owner with Farmer’s Insurance. But it was that call 37 years ago that remains a defining moment in shaping his future.

“I was headed on the wrong road, and without Coach Nelson, there’s no telling where I would be,” Troupe said.

Nelson’s influence on Troupe was commonly seen in many other athletes. He gained a reputation for recruiting players in the inner city that otherwise would have had little chance of leaving their communities.

Marshall was one of those players. A graduate of Soldan High School, Marshall established himself as one of the premiere high school guards in the area, but was drawn to Forest Park by Nelson’s willingness to recruit in the inner city.

“A lot of coaches just wouldn’t come in there and get us,” Marshall said. “Bob was just Bob, everywhere he went. The more he got one of us, he was able to get another one and another one. We had a legacy started at Forest Park, where we got a lot of the great players from the city.”

However, it wasn’t just Nelson’s men’s teams who received the benefit of their coach’s influence.

Theza Fitzpatrick, who played for Nelson in 1983-84, saw her hoops career withering away at Saint Louis University, where women’s basketball was an afterthought at that time.

Though she was playing major college basketball and was the Billikens’ leading scorer as a freshman, Fitzpatrick sought out Forest Park and Nelson. Nelson gave the hard sell in their first meeting.

“I said, ‘What emphasis on basketball is there at Saint Louis U.? None,’” Nelson said.  “You come play for me and I’ll take care of you.”

After one year with Nelson and the Highlanders, Fitzpatrick received a full scholarship at Kansas State University, where she completed her basketball career while earning her bachelor’s degree.

Fitzpatrick, who now works as a head nurse at a hospital in Walnut Creek, Calif., flew in for the opportunity to see her coach again.

“That speaks volumes for this mad man,” Fitzpatrick said. “He truly was a mad dog on the court, kind of the Bobby Knight of our era.”

Life as a Community Servant

While he has been known best as a coach, Nelson’s contributions to St. Louis Community College go beyond the basketball court.

Nelson served as a member of the STLCC Board of Trustees from 2004-2009, including serving as the board chair from 2006-2009. Along the way, Nelson has also aligned himself with many political leaders and causes, working to improve access to college education for the St. Louis youth.

St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, a close personal friend of Nelson, credits Nelson and his candid, blunt manner of speaking as a valuable asset to the community.

“He’s always been outspoken,” Dooley said. “What you see is what you get with Bob. He always tells you what he thinks. That’s what I love about him. That’s the beauty of him. He’s not only a coach, but he’s a mentor to people. He’s been a great mentor to many people, and he still is. Nothing’s changed.”

For Nelson, playing the role of mentor has been his most cherished task, both during his time at STLCC, and now in his retirement.

“That means more to me than being inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame,” Nelson said. “The fact that you can have an influence on young folks – that’s big.”