Looking for someone to help out with his youth basketball team from Middletown, Mike Faron turned to Ron Engle.
Not a bad choice. During his decades as a basketball coach and athletic director at Middletown High School, Engle passed on his extensive knowledge of the game — along with many other lessons — to countless kids, male and female.
But would Engle help out with what Faron described as “just a small team?”
“He never missed a practice,” Faron said. “I think I missed more practices than he did.”
In the future, during every basketball practice and basketball game on Middletown High School’s court, there will be a reminder of the legendary Engle, who died at age 75 on Oct. 15, 2016.
On Wednesday, the Frederick County Board of Education unanimously approved a proposal, which was submitted to Faron and Jay Schill on behalf of parents and boosters from Middletown, to name Middletown High School’s court after Engle.
The court will be officially named Ron Engle Court. The gym floor is scheduled for renovation in the summer of 2018, when Engle’s name will be painted on the court. The Middletown athletic boosters will pay for it, and the cost is estimated to be about $2,000 to $3,000.
“It’s absolutely tremendous, just to do something for Coach Engle, to recognize him formally,” Schill said. “It was a very easy application to put together because his résumé is just outstanding — it’s incomparable. Very few people have had the career that he’s had.”
No one knows that career better than Engle’s wife, Dottie, and she was glad to hear that her husband would be honored. She figured if anyone deserved to have something named after them, it was Engle.
“Talk about blood, sweat and tears,” said Dottie Engle, remembering how the dedicated coach cried when the Middletown girls team he helped coach won the Class 2A state title in 2006.
Dottie recalled how a young Ron Engle immersed himself in coaching before he even got paid for it. She said he would’ve coached the rest of his life for nothing.
And Dottie’s recollections indicate how important coaching was to Engle’s life.
He helped start the MVAA youth league and gave clinics to guide youth coaches, she said, and he wrote letters of thanks to people who helped with his teams, sending them to everyone from statisticians to clock operators.
At team banquets, he’d tell each player what he thought their strengths were and what they needed to work on.
Dottie said Engle held training sessions for aspiring players in grades 5 through 8, teaching skills such as shooting.
Schill and Faron are just two of the parents whose kids learned from Engle. Their daughters played under him when he served as an assistant for Middletown’s girls team during the 2015-16 season, which turned out to be the longtime coach’s final season.
In his 22 years as Middletown’s varsity boys basketball coach, Engle had 20 winning seasons, piled up 337 victories and guided the Knights to the state playoffs four times. He also served as Middletown’s athletic director for 29 years, retiring from Frederick County Public Schools in 1996.
He returned to Middletown’s court as an assistant girls basketball coach, joining forces with head coach Bill Miskell — a former Middletown student who played basketball for Engle — to help the Knights win the Class 2A state title in 2006.
He was inducted into the Alvin G. Quinn Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.
“Most of his teams were very successful on paper,” Schill said. “But the intangibles, the real life lessons that we look back on as parents who were athletes, that we still use in our lives, those are the things that he really taught them. Those great life lessons.”
FCPS solicited feedback for the proposal to name the court after Engle. It received 69 emails, 68 of which supported naming the court after Engle. The other one was about general naming rights.
Faron wasn’t surprised by such positive feedback.
“I’ve never heard anybody say a bad word about Coach Engle, so I’m glad it worked out that way,” he said. “It’s something pretty special, and he was a special man.”
Aside from coaching, Engle also threw himself into being Middletown’s athletic director. Dottie Engle said he was an advocate for all of the school’s sports teams.
“He was well regarded by other coaches and athletic directors,” Engle said. “He had a good relationship with everybody.”
In 2007, the scorer’s table in Middletown’s gym was named after Engle. But as Faron said, having the court named after Engle seemed like an appropriate gesture, considering the profound influence he had on the lives of students.
Board member April Miller said, “Honestly, there needs to be a Coach Engle course on how to emulate the kind of person he was.”
The board looked at the policy and regulations regarding naming rights to examine what types of leaders should have things named after them.
“Coach Engle should be at the top of that list,” Board President Brad Young said.
There were several letters online that supporters sent, including those written by Urbana girls soccer coach Chuck Nichols, former Middletown boys soccer coach Bob Sheffler and Mark Miller, a former Middletown girls basketball coach who now coaches the University of South Carolina Aiken women’s hoops team.
When Faron attended a ceremony celebrating Engle’s life last year, the scope of Engle’s influence was easy to see.
“There were guys in their 50s there talking about him, young ladies in their 20s talking about him, and teenagers, young ladies talking,” Faron said. “Because he’d come to everything, he’d come to all the games.”
Frederick News-Post staff writer Allen Etzler contributed to this article.