Back in the 1970s, seven Greensboro Sports Council men had a vision: bring Greensboro’s high school basketball teams together for a holiday tournament and donate the proceeds to the schools’ coffers. It sounded like a pretty good idea when the inaugural TIMCO Invitational presented by NewBridge Bank was played back in 1976, and it’s an idea that still sounds pretty good today yet is perhaps even more important.
Jim Betts, Lem Cox, Bradley Faircloth, Stanley Frank, Doug Galyon Fred Joseph and E. Kemp Reece not only envisioned a tournament that would help fund the schools’ athletic programs, they acted on that vision and created it. In 1970, the Greensboro Coliseum hosted the Big 4 Tournament, an annual affair among Duke, NC State, North Carolina and Wake Forest. These seven Sports Council visionaries realized they could make their vision a reality if they created a similar event among Greensboro’s four city high schools, Dudley, Grimsley, Page and Smith, and in 1976, the Little 4 was born.
When Grimsley played Page and Dudley faced Smith in the first tournament games Dec. 28, 1976, organizers knew they had four good men’s basketball teams, and they knew that with strong support from the community, they’d be able to return $5,000 to each of the four schools. As it turned out, the event drew nearly 4,000 high school hoops fans to the Coliseum each night. Not bad for a holiday tournament that was no sure thing. The Greensboro Sports Council started the tournament as a two-day playoff, but it didn't take long to expand the field to eight schools and to add a women’s tournament to the program. Despite changes along the way, the basics and mission of the event remained the same, and the holiday tournament’s popularity and significance remained strong.
Today, the TIMCO Invitational is just that: an invitational tournament. The Greensboro Sports Council can invite different teams from year-to-year as long as they represent Guilford County, but the mission remains, and the event continues to thrive. While the tournament was important to the participating schools in 1976, it is even more important in the challenging economic times of the present day. In the last 13 years, the Greensboro Sports Council has donated some $1.2 Million back to its participating schools.
In addition to donating funds back to the schools, the Greensboro Sports Council also awards four Bill Lee Scholarships to participating student athletes each year, and the Council makes charitable contributions as well. Some previous recipients of charitable donations are Greensboro Urban Ministries, the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs. Cancer, Friends for an Earlier Breast Cancer Test, the Eastern Guilford High School Fund, the Joey Cheek Fund, the North Carolina State Games and the Girls and Boys Club.
While the tournament has remained focused on its original purpose, it has also enjoyed some high-level hoops over the years. Last year’s tournament was no exception as both top seeds held serve. The Greensboro Day School Bengals charged to the championship defeating Ragsdale, Page and Northeast Guilford on the way to coach Freddy Johnson’s record 10th men’s title. On the women’s side, the Page Pirates knocked off Northeast Guilford, Greensboro Day and Northwest Guilford. It was the 11th TIMCO Invitational title for the Lady Pirates in 16 championship-game appearances – both tournament records.
While the TIMCO Invitational has evolved through the years in both title and teams, the mission remains the same – support high schools Guilford County. Deep community roots planted in a different century grow stronger each autumn when the familiar sounds of basketball shoes squeaking on high school hardwoods returns - the TIMCO Invitational must be around the corner.