DALTON -- On an emotion-filled evening at Wahconah High School, Ed Ladley's emotion capped it all off with two words.
"Go Warriors," said Ladley, shouting the cheer to the heavens.
Those were the final words the longtime Wahconah boys basketball coach uttered at the end of ceremonies honoring his tenure at the high school.
It was a night to celebrate Ladley's 516 career wins, 32 postseason appearances, five Western Massachusetts and one state Division II titles. Ladley was surrounded by friends, his wife Rose Marie and most of his children, and many of the players he coached at Wahconah.
"I don't think I can put this in perspective, maybe 30 years from now," said Wahconah athletic director Pat West. "Ed is just a special guy. Anybody who's ever played for him or knows him knows he's a special guy. He loves the kids. He's a great coach."
A ceremony was held before the Wahconah-Lee varsity game to honor Ladley. When the ceremony ended, an emotional Ladley tried to put things into perspective.
"We have a change and a transition," Ladley said. "I'm going to show everybody that this is a together family."
The ceremony included a presentation to Ladley of the original state championship banner that hung from the wall in the gym. It was presented to Ladley by former players Pat Bramer, Gary Campbell Jr., Billy Zink, Ken Purcell and team manager Henry Jaesche.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," he said. "I said thank you from the bottom of my heart."
West is one of those at Wahconah who has a unique perspective on Ladley and his work. They had both been teachers in the Central Berkshire Regional School District and West is currently the athletic director and girls soccer coach at Wahconah. But both of West's sons, Liam and Colin, played basketball for Ladley at Wahconah. That meant the AD saw Ladley as a colleague, a rival and as a parent.
"Some people don't like a coach who's tough on their kids. I loved it," West said with a laugh. "I loved the stories when they came home. They'd whine to me about how he was running them. It was funny and great."
The most unusual perspectives on Ladley and his career came from right inside his house. Sons Ed and Sean, who attended the ceremonies Friday night, were both standout basketball players at Pittsfield High School. They had to play against their father. His third son, Tim, also played against his father at PHS.
"At the dinner table, there wasn't a lot of talking," said Sean Ladley, 39, who works for Wells Fargo Bank. "There were some staredowns when my mother made pasta. We'd sit down and talk quietly and wish each other good luck.
"It was intense."
Ed, 46, is the oldest of the boys and played against his father first. He's now a lawyer in Phoenix, but said he remembers sitting in the custodian's office at Wahconah while his father called in the reports of the game.
But there was a game between Pittsfield and Wahconah that the younger Ladley said popped into mind.
"I remember a game my junior year. I had three hoops in a row, stole the ball and I was dribbling down the sideline," Ed Ladley said. "I went past the Wahconah bench and I distinctly remember my dad standing up and as I'm driving by going ‘Stop that guy. Stop that guy.'
"It just registered in my head that ‘I'm not ‘that guy,' I'm your son.' "
If Ed Ladley was Wahconah's Batman, then for 21 years, Fran Reardon was Robin. Reardon spent two years as an assistant under Tom Murray and then joined up with Ladley for a most successful tenure.
"It was just a fun experience," Reardon said. "We went to many clinics together. Many years ago, we went down to West Point when Bob Knight was the coach there.
"Ed used it all. He was a great guy to work for and to work with."
The evening began with the unveiling of a mural that was installed on a wall as fans enter Ed Ladley Gymnasium. Kathy Loza of Dalton painted the mural and West said it took six weeks and was delivered Friday morning to the high school.
"It was a spy sort of thing, sneaking it in," said West. "We had to put it up between classes."
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