GREENSBORO — After coaching basketball for 24 years, it might be hard to experience new things on the court.
Don’t tell that to Mike Baker.
“Every time you go, every kid is different,” said Baker, the long-time Fairmont coach. “If it’s the same thing, you get bored, so it’s not. It’s fun when you come in and you have a new exciting kid that comes in and is excited about playing.”
Baker’s past few months have been anything but boring. Not only did he get his 400th career victory but on Monday night, he coached a team of top graduated seniors from around the state at the 66th annual East-West All Star basketball game at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Baker said that the event was about more than just the game, but also building relationships through the sport.
“You meet kids from other areas and you find out you have something in common, and that’s basketball,” he said.
Even though Baker’s East team was on the losing end of a 98-86 final score, the experience wasn’t one to be upset about.
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “We battled, we competed, and they hit more shots than we did.”
There was one disappointment in the festivities, and that was Fairmont senior Jarrod Neal being unable to attend the game and play one more game along side Baker before moving on to play football in college.
“It would have added to it, because that’s a person I knew for the last four years,” Baker said. “I would have loved to have had him play in an environment like this. You have some disappointments in life and you learn to move on.”
Baker wasn’t the only one who was disappointed in the late scratch. County athletic directory Jason Suggs also felt it would have been a memorable moment.
“I would have loved to see them play together one last time,” Suggs said. “He’s been one of the faces of Fairmont basketball for the last three years.”
Suggs was in attendance on Monday night, and was adamant in how deserving Baker was for the opportunity.
“I mean he’s basically done everything you can possibly do in high school basketball,” Suggs said. “When you talk about basketball in Robeson County, you have to mention Mike Baker.”
In Suggs’ eyes, it isn’t just Baker’s personal achievements, but the way he went about coaching as well.
“He’s someone that everybody looked at,” Suggs said. “He’s somebody that each basketball coach in the county can look up to as well, because everything he does is professional and everything he does for kids. I wish we could clone Mike Baker and put him in every coaching position.”
Baker said the appearance in the game was another addition to a lifetime of memories basketball has given to him.
“I can’t even begin to express how much basketball has meant to me and my career and what it has done for me,” he said. “To have the opportunity to coach these kids in a community that is so rich in basketball. You can’t ask for anything else.”
And for Baker, it all comes down to representing his home town, where he first started playing the game.
“Every experience I have, it all goes back to our Fairmont community,” he said. “I’m blessed that they gave me the opportunity and they supported me.”
Now that he has been to the top and coached the game, it isn’t something he wants to hold for himself.
“This is a pinnacle,” he said. “Every coach should get a chance to coach in the East-West All-Star game and work with other kids. Unfortunately some go through their entire career and it doesn’t happen. I was fortunate enough for it to happen.”