He is Pelham High’s oldest basketball fan.
He knows all the players nicknames, their strengths, their weaknesses. And not surprisingly, all the players and the fans know who Ronald Walsh is.
“He has been coming to the Pelham High games longer than anyone I know,” says Basketball Coach Matt Regan.
A man who considers “Hoosiers” the best movie ever made, Walsh learned to play basketball on the hardscrabble courts of Brooklyn, N.Y. and later as a Navy sailor. The father of six girls, he began cheering for the Pythons in 1974, the year Pelham High first opened.
He rooted for his three of his daughters when they played hoops for Pelham in the late 1970s and 1980s, and in between he cheered the boy's team on.
“I just love watching high school basketball,” Walsh says. “There’s no better entertainment for two bucks, and I enjoy the camaraderie with the players and their parents.”
This year Walsh was especially proud of Pelham High. Their remarkable season with 22 wins and 0 losses wasn’t due to a couple of super stars; every player contributed, every player counted. The team epitomized Walsh’s philosophy: There is no “I” in team.
In March, as his beloved Pythons fought for the state championship, Walsh waged his own battle. A severe spine injury rendered him nearly cripple. Still, it didn’t stop him from rooting for his home town team.
“He was so happy when I called to tell him we’d won,” said Eric Frank, whose son, Kyle, plays point guard for PHS. “He told me this was the probably the most complete Pelham team that he had seen in all his years. It was a total team effort.”
Weeks later, when the Pythons learned that Walsh had undergone emergency spine surgery, they rallied for their longtime fan. “Pelham High’s basketball program is like one big family,” Frank said. “And Mr. Walsh is part of that family.”
Players signed a card with their team picture and Coach Regan presented the gift to Walsh as he recovered in the hospital. Walsh, who is known for cheering loudly and is seldom lost for words, fell silent.
“I was so touched by what they did,” Walsh said.
Months later as Walsh’s family considered what to get him for his 80th birthday, they thought about his life-long love for basketball and his 30-year loyalty to his home town team.
They decided to create a Ronald Walsh Pelham High School Basketball Scholarship. The award will go to a graduating senior who plans to attend college, plays 110 ten percent and understands there is no “I” in team. The first scholarship will be given out during the 2016 graduation.