St. Dominic High School honors inspiring coach, Ed Crenshaw
Former basketball players and alumni at St. Dominic High School in O'Fallon got what they were waiting for Dec. 1 — a chance to honor "a gentleman on and off the court," former coach and social studies teacher Ed Crenshaw.
"When you played for him, you didn't question the officials, and you didn't show up the other team," said Bernie Boehmer, a 1968 graduate. "He never yelled, yet he made you the best you could be."
The athletic association and booster club led an effort with the help of the former players and alumni to raise $75,000 for the right to name the gym floor as Crenshaw Court in honor of a man who not only won more games than any other boys basketball coach at St. Dominic but won the hearts of those he met. A ceremony with Crenshaw and his family in attendance along with former players and many others took place between the JV and varsity boys basketball game in the new, large multi-purpose facility known as The Fallon Family Center.
Crenshaw was the coach from 1960-74, the only coach at Assumption/St. Dominic to win more than 200 games, compiling a 253-129 record.
Crenshaw taught basketball, but his lessons applied to life, too, Boehmer said after the ceremony. Boehmer remembers working on a play he was struggling with, and Crenshaw told him, "'Son, effort is always rewarded.'
"He made you believe in yourself and him. No matter what, you believed you could win the game. He got the most out of the talent he had," Boehmer noted.
Bob Schmersahl, class of 1970, said the coach was "part of our family here in O'Fallon. It's great to have him get this recognition. He gave all of himself to us."
Schmersahl said Crenshaw, known as "Easy Ed," won respect with his calm demeanor.
Another player, Jerry Vehige, noted how easy it was to play for Crenshaw. "After practice, he'd tell us to run five laps. We'd run one."
Recalling and discussing it now, Vehige and some teammates started to realize they'd been outsmarted because their coach didn't force them to do the laps but had led a vigorous practice. "He scrimmaged us for hours," Vehige said.
Crenshaw started coaching at Assumption, a parish high school that evolved into St. Dominic. He was recommended by Norm Ochsner, his predecessor, and hired by Father Raymond Diermann. Several people have noted that the hiring of an African-American teacher and coach in a mostly white community was ahead of its time.
Crenshaw later moved to University City High School and in all won 677 games. He still is in the top 10 in the state. In the archdiocese, only two coaches at Catholic schools, Ray DeGreef of St. Francis Borgia and Tom Stanton at St. Louis University High School, won more games in their careers. Crenshaw was an outstanding player at Sumner High School in St. Louis and today is fifth on the all-time scoring list at Qunicy University with 1,476 points, and he holds the school record for most free-throws made.
The formal program Dec. 1 recognized the guidance and inspiration Crenshaw provided to so many young people. Crenshaw has had health problems and did not speak at the event, but waved in appreciation of a cascade of applause for him.
Dave Beckering, class of 1972, told a story of getting no special treatment from Crenshaw, who was a referee at a game Beckering played in while in college. But Crenshaw's treatment of his players was special, Beckering noted.
"I never knew a man who could talk so softly yet could motivate a team so well," he said. "And I never once saw him disrespect a player in a game or practice."
Sister Mary Bender, SSND, president of St. Dominic, presented the plaque recognizing the naming of the court. She said Crenshaw's efforts helped young people become outstanding members of the community and the Church.
The coach's son, Ed Crenshaw Jr., who was a referee at the game to follow, spoke on behalf of their family, noting that his father took seriously his role as a teacher, mentor and role model. He compared his father to former St. Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil, who is known for teaching players to believe in themselves and each other.
Another son, Anthony Crenshaw, said alumni regularly call, send cards and visit his father. As a parent, he said, his dad was easy on one hand and stern on the other, making sure his sons did their homework and gave back to the community. Ed Jr. works in law enforcement and is a top-notch basketball referee and Anthony is a former high school principal who now runs Educational Equity Consultants.
St. Dominic has an enrollment of 704. Nine basketball and volleyball teams will play games in the new multipurpose building/gym, which also serves the school as the site for all-school Masses, assemblies and related purposes. A performing arts center accompanies it. Some supporting items and interior areas still are being completed. Gifts to the campaign included a five-year pledge from the Archdiocese of St. Louis of $500,000 from the Annual Catholic Appeal and the Returning God's Gifts endowment campaign.
Additional funds are sought for the expansion of the school. Contributions can be sent to St. Dominic High School Capital Campaign, 31 St. Dominic Drive, O'Fallon, MO 63366. For information call (636) 240-8303.
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