Vietnam veteran volunteers 45 years as youth basketball coach

Coach Paul is helping to organize a fundraiser so everyone on the team has a uniform and shoes to wear. (Image: WTVC)

A Vietnam veteran has volunteered for 45 years as a youth basketball coach.

At 73 years old, he's still scoring points at a Bradley County Elementary School.

In this week's Pay It Forward, Jessica Harthorn surprises him in the middle of practice.

Paul Elrod says after serving in the Navy he wanted a way to volunteer and give back.

In the 70's he was asked to help build a gym for Taylor Elementary School in Cleveland and 45 years later you'll still hear him coaching on the court.

The gym at Taylor Elementary is named after the man who helped build it.

Vietnam veteran Paul Elrod picked up a basketball in the late 70's, and four decades later he's coached hundreds of students.

Eleanor Whitmire remembers when her kids were on the team in the late 90's.

"He's a mentor not only in teaching kids basketball, but in the children's attitudes and being a team player," said Eleanor.

She wanted us to see him in action, so Eleanor surprised him in the middle of practice.

"Coach Paul, on behalf of Newschannel 9 and the McMahan Law Firm, we would like to Pay It Forward to you $500. Put your hand out. We just really, really appreciate you. 1, 2, 3, 4, $ 500 for the 45 years being over the basketball program here at Taylor," surprised Eleanor.

"I really appreciate it, but I don't know if I deserve it," said Coach Paul.

Coach Paul made a quick pass, giving the money to another woman organizing a fundraiser to pay for the team's uniforms.

Coach Paul says his coaching philosophy is everyone makes the team and gets time to play.

"Giving them the opportunity to come out and have that little bit of time to believe they're Michael Jordan," said Coach Paul.

So we asked 9-year-old Jack Russell what he's learned from Coach Paul.

"Is there something at basketball you are really good at?" asked Newschannel 9's Jessica Harthorn.

"Stealing the ball!" said Jack.

"And why are you so good at stealing the ball?" asked Jessica.

"Because they are big and I can go under and steal the ball," said Jack.

As for Coach Paul, he says he's honored to be recognized for all the sweat and sacrifices he's made.

Do you know someone who deserves $500 cash for helping others in the community? Nominate them here.

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