Long-time NWSS hoop coach Bob Gair dies

Former NWSS athletic director and girls basketball coach Bob Gair, who passed away Monday, continued to help out at the provincial senior girls championship during his retirement. - Photo contributed
Former NWSS athletic director and girls basketball coach Bob Gair, who passed away Monday, continued to help out at the provincial senior girls championship during his retirement.
— image credit: Photo contributed

Bob Gair, New Westminster's first secondary school athletic director and founder of its girls basketball program, has passed away.

Gair collapsed near the 15th tee at Northview Golf and Country Club in Surrey on Monday. He was 77.

Gair swam for Canada in the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver and attend Ohio State University on a swim scholarship. He returned to the Lower Mainland to teach at New Westminster's secondary in the early 1960s where he remained until his retirement in 1994.

The Hyacks senior girls basketball squad were crowned B.C. champs in 1974, 1992 and 1994 under Gair's guidance.

The news hit the NWSS athletic department hard this week, particularly long-time teacher Ken Bowman. He saw Gair on March 2 when Gair delivered a eulogy at the memorial for former NWSS principal and high school boys basketball organizer Bill Popowich.

"He looked exactly the same, and was still the fun-loving guy, still a great guy, and then this happens," said Bowman. "We're just devastated. Totally devastated."

When Bowman sat down for a job interview Bob Gair in 1979 he was blown away by the man asking the questions.

"His passion was unbelievable in that meeting," said Bowman. "You couldn't help just feel I've got to try and be as good as this guy because his passion is unbelievable.

"Any kind of question you needed answered, he had answers for. He was an unbelievable coach … a wonderful man. He did so many great things. He always put the kids first."

Upon his retirement the school's annual boys and girls basketball tournaments, the Bob Gair Classic, and the NWSS weight room were named after him. Gair also received the B.C. High School Sports Coaching Award of Excellence and was an honourary member of the B.C. Girls Basketball Association.

Current NWSS athletic director Peter Battistin said Gair's points formula for determining athletic award winners at the end of the school year are still used by him. Some of Gair's administrative philosophies and policies continue to be utilized two decades later.

"He was the role model on how things were to be run," said Battistin, who added Gair was always in contact with the department. "He was out of the system but he was still a mentor."

Gair also coached the Earl Marriott Mariners senior girls team, which included his niece, to the Surrey school's first ever provincial title in 2003.

In retirement, golf had become the Crescent Beach resident's new love, said Gair's former spouse Carole Gair, a longtime White Rock swim coach.

"He was out golfing with his best friends, so if you have to go, I guess that's the way you would want it," she said, adding that he had a history of heart trouble.

Gair is survived by his second wife, coincidentally also named Carole, as well as two children, Tracy and Troy, and two grandchildren, Nick and Kailey-Rae.

– with files from Nick Greenizan

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