Lost ring returned to former coach

Former WKU head basketball coach Jim Richard, an Adair County, Ky native, coached the WKU basketball team as the Head Coach from 1971-1978 in which they won the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament in 1978 which gave them a bid to the NCAA basketball tournament where they beat #5 ranked Syracuse to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. (Jeff Brown/HERALD)

Allyson Beasecker

A WKU red towel hangs on the black front door of a brick house. Inside, a silver ring lay on a wooden coffee table. The face is deep red with a solitary diamond resting in the center, and “WKU Basketball” and “Richards” are engraved on the cold metal band.

Four years have passed since the ring last graced the left hand of former head basketball coach Jim Richards.

Richards’ last coaching season was in 1977-78. It was a season of success and ample memories. The Hilltoppers beat Syracuse, then ranked number 5 in the nation, in their second-to-last game.

They lost to Magic Johnson and Michigan State in the 1978 NCAA Tournament Mideast Regional Semifinals. The ring commemorated the team’s success and Richards’ final coaching season.

“My assistant coaches thought highly enough of me to all chip in and have a diamond put in my ring,” Richards said.

31 years later, in 2009, Richards took two of his grandsons on a baseball trip with the WKU team to the University of Kentucky. The trio rode on the team bus. Richards had his 1978 championship ring on one hand, a different season ring on the other and an arm around each grandson.

Richards’ youngest grandson, Casey Richards, got motion sickness from the rolling movement of the large bus. Richards took his rings off and put them in his jacket pocket in order to comfort Casey.

Later, Casey was cold so Richards placed his jacket around his grandson’s shoulders. Little did Richards know, the small act of consolation would result in the loss of an irreplaceable prize.

“When we got off the bus I was concerned about Casey, not about putting the rings back on,” Richards said. “I didn’t think about the rings until later.”

One of the two rings—the one from his final coaching season—had fallen out of his jacket pocket. When Richards called the bus company, the ring was was nowhere to be found.

Richards said he was extremely disappointed when he lost the ring because of its sentimental worth. The ring was more than a token of his final season at WKU. It held a meaning of success and marked all of the special years spent at WKU.

Richards’ wife, Annette, was part of every year her husband spent with the basketball team at WKU and attended every game within driving distance.

“We bleed red,” Annette said.

The couple thought the ring was lost forever until two weeks ago, when they received a phone call from a Tennessee state trooper.

The trooper made an ordinary traffic stop and the driver had a some sports memorabilia piled in the front seat, including Richards’ lost ring.

“His verbiage to me was they weren’t very well off financially,” Richards said. “He asked her how she had possession of the ring and I think she told him she had found it when she cleaned the bus out.”

The trooper seized the ring and did some investigating to track down its owner. The “WKU” and “Richards” engraved on the band led investigator Amy Cole to the former head coach.

“Amy Cole called the President’s Office because she saw Jim and Gary Ransdell were friends on Facebook and thought we could get her contact with Jim,” Lauren Ossello from the President’s Office said.

When Richards and his wife received the good news, they were ecstatic.

“It was such a wonderful surprise,” Annette said.

The ring was mailed to Richards and was received last Monday, but he has yet to wear it. The special silver ring went from the wooden coffee table to a place of safekeeping.

“I’m sure I’ll be wearing it again in the near future,” Richards said.

Four years later, what was lost was found. What are the odds?