34 Years Of The WOBM Christmas Classic [50 Memories in 50 Days]
With the exception of Bob Levy’s “Topic A” I can’t think of anything that’s had a longer run at WOBM then our annual Christmas Classic basketball tournament.
The 34th edition was completed a couple of months ago and I’m already busy working on #35. I am often asked how it all came to be and it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
The Southern Regional Roundball Festival was where many of the Ocean County boys basketball teams went during the holiday season in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Following the 1983 tournament word had gotten around that Southern was looking to maybe give up the tournament and a meeting of the participating teams was scheduled for Toms River High School North to ponder the future. I had heard about the meeting and asked North coach Don Fix if I could attend as I already had an idea.
I sat in the back of a classroom as the coaches discussed matters and they were all in agreement that the tournament should move to a more central location in Ocean County with Toms River the obvious choice. However at the same time nobody really wanted to run the tournament which is when I raised my hand and offered the idea of WOBM taking control and maybe holding it at Ocean County College. I volunteered to reach out to OCC Athletic Director John Stauff which I did the next day. His initial response was that the school was closed for winter break and would not be available.
My ace in the hole was Joe Buckelew, one of the owners of WOBM and an active member of the OCC Board of Trustees. At the suggestion of General Manager Bob Levy I typed (yes typed) a memo to Mr. Buckelew with my idea for sponsoring an 8-team high school basketball tournament over the holidays at the college. A couple of weeks later I was summoned to his office and told to contact Dean of Students Kenneth Kerr who would schedule a meeting with Mr. Stauff for the three of us to work out some of the details. In March of 1984 plans were finalized for the first WOBM Christmas Classic that December and it was Joe Buckelew who tossed the ceremonial “first jump ball” at 1pm on December 26 when Manchester played Central in the very first game.
We had a great run at OCC for 19 years before expanding and moving the tournament to what is now the RWJBarnabas Health Arena on the campus of Toms River High School North. Both John Stauff and Ken Kerr were wonderful to work with and if not for their efforts I don’t know if there would be a WOBM Christmas Classic. The same goes for Buckelew who recently was voted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame and will be inducted in May. I guess that decision to allow me to establish the WOBM Christmas Classic resonated with the voters.
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