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January 26, 2013

More than basketball at county tournament

MINCO — It was decided by school superintendents about a year ago that Minco would host the Grady County Tournament. Six months after that, Minco Athletic Director Clint Shirley begins to make the calls to get the officials lined up for the games.

A month before the tournament begins, superintendent Kevin Sims and Shirley begin to assign specific duties, recruit volunteers and gate-keepers, and contact businesses that want to help out.

Two weeks before tip-off, coaches and administrators get together and set the brackets.

The gym floor will be swept and buffed the morning before games start, then nothing is left but to wait for the buses to show up.

Although the tournament is usually held at the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma, this year Minco hosted all five days.

With an activity center that's only a few years old, Minco was a logical choice to host the tournament when scheduling conflicts with USAO basketball practice could not be resolved.

"This is the nicest facility in the county, other than Chickasha High School," Shirley said. "The kids are excited to play here, and that's the bottom line. It's about the kids."

Shirley is familiar with the Grady County Basketball Tournament.

As a high school student, he played in the tournament for the Rush Springs Redskins. He's coached in the tournament before. Last year, Verden hosted the first four days of the tournament, and Shirley oversaw it as the school's athletic director.

This year, as the athletic director for Minco schools, he knows what to expect out of the tournament.

"I knew last year that Minco would have it, and when I decided to take the job, a lot of people said 'You know you've got to do the tournament again, right?'," Shirley said. "I know how to do it because I've been involved in it."

He gets to the gym at about 1:30 each day, and stays until after 10 p.m. He said he enjoys it, but it can be a tiring schedule to maintain for a week.

"There are a lot of worse things a guy can do every evening than watch basketball, but it is a lot of work, and it takes a lot of people to do it," Shirley said. "It's not a one-man job, that's for sure."

Sims may be a little less familiar with the tournament than Shirley, but he's getting plenty of on-the-job training.

As Minco's superintendent, he has a lot of different roles. Some of them likely fall within his official job description, but many of them don't.

Sometimes he's a janitor, helping pick up trash and sweep the floors late at night once all the games are over. Sometimes he's a cashier taking money at the concession stand.

During a typical tournament, Sims fills the role of a customer service representative. If the music in the gym is too loud, if the referees aren't doing a good job, or if the bathroom is out of toilet paper, a paying customer might ask him to solve that problem.

Some issues he can handle. He can turn the music down, and he can refill the toilet paper. He can't referee the games, however, nor does he want to.

"Typically with a smile," Sims said about the way he handles referee complaints. "I just more or less listen. What can you say? I can't change the officials or the outcome of a call or a game, and I wouldn't. I tell them I respect their opinion, but there is nothing I can do about it."

He's even had to be a plumber this week.

"I had to take care of a plumbing issue that came up the other night, I had to fix a urinal," Sims said. "Which I didn't do a very good job at, but I had to go fix it.

"My thing is to just help ensure that it runs smoothly," he said.

As Sims has learned this week, that can mean many different things.

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