Fans turn out to honor Matthews, field house

By Zach West Published: February 2, 2008
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PURCELL — After the last basketball game at the old Purcell gymnasium in 1967, someone pulled a notice off the wall, flipped it over, and started taking signatures to name the school's new gym after legendary head coach Leroy "Boney” Matthews.

David Matthews, Boney's youngest son, doesn't remember who started the petition — just that it caught his family off guard.

"It surprised us, but it was wonderful,” David said. "He was still the coach at the time. It wasn't like he was retired.”

Forty years and over 3,000 games later, 68-year-old David and his family were in attendance on Friday night to help commemorate Boney Matthews Field House as it hosted its final high school game. Hundreds of current and former Purcell citizens packed into the now-aged gym, many wearing the 500 T-shirts given away in honor of "The Last Game at Boney Matthews Field House.”

Memories were shared, tears were shed, and at halftime of the boys game, over 60 former players took the court to honor the facility and the man who molded Purcell athletics.

"He was a great person,” said Charlie Heatly, the legendary Lindsay girls coach and Boney opponent who spoke to the crowd before Friday's games. "He was so competitive, but when the game was over, that was that. Nobody ever had my respect more than Boney.”

Boney started at Purcell in 1945, when he was the school's only coach. By the time he retired in 1973, the Hall of Fame coach had amassed 627 wins in boys basketball, giving him 922 for his career — the record for Oklahoma high schools.