CHAMPAIGN — When he was a high schooler at Centennial, John Woods could clearly see how much Coleman Carrodine cared about his athletes and students.
Among other things, the longtime Chargers basketball and track coach would set up shop in the cafeteria each year and personally write out letters to college coaches on behalf of each of his players who expressed interest in playing at the next level.
It wasn’t until Carrodine’s funeral in 2017, though, that Woods clearly saw how much of an impact he had on his players.
“It was a ‘who’s who’ of Centennial basketball,” said Woods, the current Libertyville and former Champaign Central athletic director.
“It was incredible to see that so many years later. You’re talking 25 years later, and guys are coming back? That is a surefire sign of the role he played in the lives of the guys that played for him.”
Soon, his imprint on Centennial will be a physical one.
On Monday night, the Unit 4 school board voted unanimously to name the Centennial gym after Carrodine, who coached Chargers basketball from 1978 to 2000.
“This is pretty amazing to have this opportunity to be on the board to even vote on this naming of the Centennial gym, because he truly was an icon at Centennial,” said board member Bruce Brown, who had Carrodine as a teacher. “He was always very hard-nosed, very direct, but he was never disrespectful.”
The board’s vote was to name one of the two gyms at Centennial after Carrodine, who won Big 12 titles from 1994-96 and in 1984 led a team starring McDonald’s All-American Roger McClendon to the state tournament.
Originally thinking the school’s new gym would host games, the family submitted a request for it to be named after Carrodine, but since it won’t, the school’s main gym will likely be named after him.
It’ll be the second court in town to be named for a former coach after Central’s Lee Cabutti Court.
Carrodine was an assistant for Cabutti before taking over at Centennial.
At Carrodine’s funeral, Woods said the main topics of conversation among former players weren’t about big wins or titles. They were personal stories about their stern but caring coach.
When he comes back to Champaign and sees his former coach’s name imprinted on the Centennial court, Woods won’t think about wins or losses, either.
“Oftentimes, venues get named after someone who won state championships and stuff like that, but I think it’s as important to recognize the individuals that played for Coleman Carrodine,” Woods said.
“You strip away what he was able to accomplish as a coach, and the wins and losses, and the college athletes he produced and all that, the thing I remember most about Coleman Carrodine was that he produced good men.
“He taught leadership, he taught character, first and foremost.”