SALEM - The entrance to the gym carries his name and the hard-wood gymnasium floor bears his signature ... Now he's gone.
John A. Cabas, 94, died Monday night at the Salem Community Hospital.
He was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II.
John A. Cabas
Arrangements are pending at the Stark Memorial Funeral Home.
A Salem legend who can be measured in record books with a state high school basketball championship and two runner-up finishes, Cabas was a man whose reputation and citizenship reached far beyond the city limits and the school districts he served right up to the Ohio High School Basketball Association Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 1987.
Cabas served as president of the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association from 1964-66 and is credited with many innovations under his leadership.
When he coached in Salem, Cabas made owning season tickets a status symbol. His fans found his teams exciting and wanted to see them play.
Mayor John Berlin said, "He was a basketball legend in Salem. I went to West Branch but he was quite a legend with his teams."
Berlin graduated from high school in 1966 and recalled Cabas played semi-pro football in the 30s and 40s for the Minerva Merchants.
"That's my recollection," he said. "I know he's been a legend in Salem and justifiably so. It's a great loss for Salem ... I'm sorry to hear that."
For 33 years Cabas coached basketball and built a winning record of 432 games (69.2 percent) against 192 losses.
In that record, stands a 1947 state championship for Columbiana High School and two state runner-up finishes - in 1945 at Columbiana and at Salem during the intensely memorable 1958-59 season.
Cabas pushed hard to compete with Division I teams and the trial by fire came in that great 1958-59 season, twice.
The Quakers hosted then-defending state champs Cleveland East Tech during the season taking a tough loss and squared off against the powerhouse again in the state finals, taking a second loss while compiling a 25-2 record.
Salem High School Principal Dr. Joe Shivers played three years for Cabas and his 1966 team is the last Salem team to be ranked in the top 10 statewide.
"I've never watch a game - in the 46 years since I left high school - without looking at them through the lens that he gave me ... every game, high school, college, pro.
"What he taught was about how basketball should be played."
Shivers explained the feeder system he devised that, from an organizational standpoint, was "brilliant."
Cabas was also a disciplinarian and Shivers said you didn't dare show up for the first practice out of shape.
"In the last four minutes, other teams were dragging but we were in shape ... fresh ... there were no mistakes based on fatigue," he said.
John "Goober" Gottschling saw "taskmaster" Cabas from 1952 to 1954 when he captained the 15-4 Quakers.
"He made you work," said Gottschling who credits Cabas with drilling the fundamentals into him with such ferocity that he beat out four seasoned players and won a starting guard position at Mount Union College as freshman.
"I was better prepared and worked harder, that's what Cabas taught me. He was a good guy, he was a tough old bird. He worked you hard and he was far ahead of everyone else with his coaching skills."
Cabas retired from coaching in 1972 and Dr. Paul Shivers missed playing for Cabas by a year.
"I was looking forward to playing for him because of my older brothers," Shivers said explaining the Cabas/Salem basketball legacy was already cemented in place.
"He had Salem on the basketball map."
Al Lesch, a former city council president, recalled Cabas supporting him when he ran for office, something Cabas himself tried in a mayoral bid as an Independent candidate.
"I liked John, he was a good guy," Lesch said.
The Salem Historical Society collected a number of Cabas gems, noting when he arrived to coach the Quakers in 1950, he decided to make a change, the Quaker Lady for what became Quaker Sam.
A local artist came up with the rendition, Cabas liked it, the Kiwanis club made a black, white and red badge and Cabas came up with "Love Those Quakers."
Cabas then had a 20-foot plywood "Quaker Sam" built in three sections for use at basketball and football games. The teams would run through Sam's legs to and from the locker rooms.
Cabas also served as an assistant principal and driver's education instructor.
Larry Shields can be reached at email@example.com