08/01/10 — Paying it forward: Dave Odom returns home to help Boys & Girls Club

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Paying it forward: Dave Odom returns home to help Boys & Girls Club

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on August 1, 2010 1:50 AM

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Former Goldsboro High player and coach Dave Odom, who coached basketball at Virginia, Wake Forest, East Carolina and South Carolina during his career, talks about his days growing up in Goldsboro

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Dave Odom gives a bit of advice to Dameon Greene during a visit to the Boys & Girls Club on Royall Avenue. The club is renovating its gym and plans to name it after Odom.

Looking back, Dave Odom was not so different from the children he hopes to help now at the Wayne County Boys and Girls Club.

"The club taught us to compete and the value of sportsmanship," Odom said. "It also gave us direction in our lives at a time when it was badly needed."

Now, decades later, Odom can see the results of those days at the club -- credits as head basketball coach at East Carolina, Wake Forest and South Carolina universities and being named coach of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference three times as well as coach of the year in the Southeastern Conference in 2004.

So now, he wants to give back to the place that was so instrumental in his own life -- and he is asking his hometown fans and friends to help him.

A campaign to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club will help pay for much-needed improvements to the facility on Royall Avenue.

The fact that the renovated gymnasium will be named for Odom is not the motivation, however, he said.

It is payback, of sorts, to the mentors who meant so much in his life -- and a payment forward to the children who will continue to walk through the club's doors.

Odom grew up a few blocks from the old Boys & Girls Club and, he said, the people he met there taught him not only perseverance and determination, but also gave him the skills he would use later to inspire other young men to pursue their dreams.

He said the club is a crucial part of the fabric of Goldsboro. A sometimes overlooked resource because of the population it serves -- young people, it is the place where not only athletic skills, but character, are forged.

"This club is a microcosm of the town itself," Odom said while touring the club Thursday, joking with teenagers and watching younger kids play "quickball" in the sweaty gym that has no air-conditioning. "Our future leaders are growing up today. We want the club to look first-class. The kids of this county deserve that."

Odom knows a bit about leadership. During his coaching career, he helped guide hundreds of young men at the Goldsboro High School gym and to the NCAA tournament.

He said some of his favorite memories are of letters or phone calls he received, and still receives, from former players whom he helped along the way.

One player with whom he "butted heads every day for four years," wrote to tell the coach about the success of his own children, one of whom had just been accepted at prestigious Stanford University.

He told Odom that "I know you think I was never listening, but I was."

The return on the time and energy invested in just one young person is "huge," Odom said. That is why the Boys & Girls Club is so important, he said.

Odom showed the spark of leadership at a young age.

Baseball legend George Whitfield was one of the men who coached Odom as a young man.

"He wasn't the biggest player ... but he always made the right decisions. You could count on him to never have a bad game. It was just that steadiness, he was a leader," Whitfield said. "I thought then that he would make a good coach."

Whitfield said the campaign not only will refurbish a facility that is important to the community, it will give Goldsboro a chance "to honor somebody who has honored us by the way he has lived his life."

Troy Pate was another mentor. He called Odom "the most fierce competitor at his age of anyone I have ever seen. He was a good athlete and he would fight you for every inch."

Odom said the two men, along with club director Bert Howell and another assistant director, Curtis Lancaster, helped provide him with a vision of what he could be.

"They were instrumental in shaping what I ended up doing," he said.

The club serves the same function today, said Odom, who first starting coming to the old club when he was just 5 years old.

"I was actually too young, but they let me in," he said, grinning.

And in today's society, the values it teaches are needed more than ever, Odom said. All the lessons of life are not taught in a classroom, he said, many of the most important are learned while playing. The Boys & Girls Club gives children that opportunity and, at the same time, helps parents know that their children are in a protected, supervised, safe environment, he said.

That's why the former coach and Boys & Girls Club member has agreed to spearhead a fundraiser to spruce up the club that meant so much to him.

A banquet catered by Outback Steakhouse is scheduled for Oct. 7, when renovations should be complete. It coincides with Odom's 50th high school class reunion and the former Goldsboro High player and coach was emphatic last week when he said he believes the money will be raised in time.

The event will be formal. Odom, along with other luminaries yet to be named, will speak.

Donations to make the affair and the renovations to the club possible start with dinner for two for $200 or for a table of eight, $750. Individual tickets will cost $125. Provisions also will be made for special recognition for donors who give either $2,500 or $5,000. In-kind contributions also are welcome. Members of the board of directors of the club will be actively promoting the event, said Rick Sumner, a member of the board.

The dinner will be held in the renovated gym. Accommodations can be made for about 200 people.

Odom's passion is evident. The same guy who as a quarterback helped drive Golds-boro High's football team up the field is determined to help this drive succeed.

And he is counting on his hometown not to let him down -- not just the stalwarts who are always there, but the young people who are getting ready to take the reins as leaders in their community.

"Knowing the history of this town, there are certain businesses and families that have been consistent in their support of the community," Odom said. "They have always stood up to the plate.

"But there comes a time when a new generation of leaders have the opportunity to step forward and be just that, new young leaders," he said. "This project is the time for those new young leaders to step forward."

And as he looked around the facility this past week, Odom thought back to those early days on the court -- humbled that the child who used to run around there was now about to have a gym named in his honor.

"When they called me about this, I was really honored and taken aback," Odom said. "I want to do it for the club. It gave me my start."