From the Bench: Life Survival Skills that Began with Wayne Jamison and Ends with Tim Gocke's Book

By Jeff Toquinto on May 21, 2017 from Sports Blog via

Tim Gocke has experienced a lot in his 67 years of life. The 1967 Bridgeport High School graduate will tell you that a whole lot of it has been good.
After all, he’s a married man – Mary – with a daughter Molly and a son Tim Jr. He’s got three grandchildren that he loves with all his heart and life, for the most part, is treating him good as he lives in Fremont, Ohio, which sits on the map in the vicinity of Toledo and Sandusky in the Buckeye State.
Before he was married, he graduated from West Virginia University and got a degree in business administration. After determining the restaurant management gig wasn’t something he wanted to do long term, he headed back to Morgantown to get his Master’s Degree in Industrial Relations.
Gocke’s professional life saw him in labor relations as a specialist. If there was an issue with management and personnel, he smoothed it over. In between all of that, there was a stint as a draftee in the United State Army that started in 1972 and saw him serve as a finance specialist. The good news was that the war in Vietnam was winding down and the better news was that his Master’s would be paid for thanks to the GI bill.
Yet, his real mark in life – at least professionally – would come after the Master’s and after Labor Relations. Tim Gocke landed a job at Marshall University where he would teach business management at the young age of 32.
He taught in Huntington for two years before moving on to teach at Eastern Kentucky University, where he taught for two years. It wasn’t as if Gocke was antsy looking for the next gig. Rather, for long-term employment those schools required a doctorate.
 “I enjoyed teaching so I started to look at community colleges because they just required master’s degrees. I eventually landed a job in Fremont, Ohio where I’ve been teaching close to 30 years (at Terra State Community College),” said Gocke.
Sounds like a charmed life, and on the surface it is and, again, even today it is. But there's a bit more. When you dig below, you’ll see a story about Tim Gocke that is about overcoming adversity – some self-inflicted and some not – and about how a self-taught lesson, or methodology in high school became his go-to when life delivered blows. Many of those blows would be considered a knockout punch, but Gocke’s story would weather on because of it.
In fact, his story is now a self-published book, which will soon delve into. The book, Number Twelve Son (the meaning of which we’ll explain near the end) talks about the struggles, the perseverance and eventual path to a healthy and happy life as he approaches the age of 70.
So what’s the book about?
“It’s a book about perseverance, overcoming obstacles and sticking with it through hard work and dedication and being successful in life and not giving up when things are not going your way,” said Gocke. “What I’ve found out is people give up too soon and when they do they often give up on their dream.”
That dream, and story, ultimately begins during his sophomore year at Bridgeport High School. Gocke started on the Indians junior varsity basketball team and got the call to the varsity level as a junior. He just never got the call for much playing time. The person responsible for giving the call was then basketball coach and future football head coaching legend Wayne Jamison.
“I probably got in three or four times and that was usually with 15 seconds left. I was very frustrated and didn’t know if Coach Jamison was ignoring me, trying to motivate me and at a young age you even wonder if your coach or anyone else cared,” said Gocke. “I just decided that after my last game as a junior I was coming back in style. I was going to make Coach Jamison notice me.”
From April to November, pretty much every day – six hours a day – Tim Gocke played basketball. He played anywhere and everywhere and in the mornings and evenings. The goal was to get on the floor and, maybe, just maybe, show Jamison he had a weapon on his hands.
“If you know Coach Jamison you know you just don’t know with him. I think maybe he wanted to see what I was made of and what I was going to do about not playing; was I going to man up and dedicate myself or give up. My hope always was that he wanted me to be a good basketball player, even though I wasn't a fan of his method because I felt ignored,” said Gocke. “Sometimes when you’re ignored you give up. I went after it more.”
By the time game one of the senior season rolled around, Gocke’s methods worked. He started and in his first game at Shinnston Gocke ripped the nets for 33 points.
“It was the sweetest game I’ve ever played … What made it sweeter was I didn’t know I was going to start. I was the last name called as starter. I felt like I was on probation,” Gocke laughed.
Gocke had several big games those years, including a career-high 35 at the now defunct Greenbrier Military School. Gocke and the Indians went 20-4 that year and it was indeed special and the Indians’ “No. 12” was the first to admit what they did wasn’t just a result of him.
“That was the first 20-win team in school history and no one can ever claim that again,” said Gocke. “We were a good team.”
The Indians’ starting five, along with Gocke, included Tom Turner, Frank Billings, Steve Sandefur and Bob Thompson were good. Turner would play at West Virginia University on the freshman squad and Gocke, one year after going to the aforementioned Greenbrier Military School, would join the freshman squad. Turner played varsity for one season before Gocke said he departed when Turner wasn’t offered a scholarship. Gocke, himself, would leave the program for the same reason.
Regardless, it showed just how strong the team was. And it was a team in which Gocke had managed to draw the attention of Jamison.
“You have to play well to get Smiley to say something to you. I had a game with 27 points that we won. He looked me in the eye, smiling, and said ‘great game Gocke.’ That was music to my ears. I’ve never forgotten that. It was most compelling that he said that and it still resonates,” said Gocke.
The Indians would eventually see their season in regional play against Wheeling where Gocke said they were beaten badly. The Indians, like their football counterparts, were playing Class AAA at their request instead of Class AA.
“I still think we could have won the title as a Class AA school,” said Gocke. “The run was over, but I took what I learned that year and leading up to that year for every battle I would face where I had to prove myself either to myself or someone else.”
It was a tool to life - Tim Gocke's life.
"Life was going to be the same way. I realized I’m going to have to prove myself in anything I do, not just basketball. I used what I learned there and in my life," said Gocke. “I call myself a successful survivor. I’m not anything special, but I persevered in this life and that’s a feat in itself."
Gocke’s life has had battles that have tested him physically, emotionally and more. He’s faced issues with alcohol that he’s been able to control with moderation for the past 10 years. The problem, he said, was something that ran in his family.
“That’s not an excuse for it, but I’m also not ashamed to talk about it,” said Gocke.
He became addicted to OxyContin for nearly four years – 2009 to 2013 – due to Chronic Pancreatitis that led to a transplant operation in 2012.
“Six months after my transplant I went into rehab inpatient at the Cleveland Clinic for opioid addiction … It felt like boot camp in my Army days,” said Gocke. 
He got through it, all of it, partially from that lesson he taught himself in the 1960s.
“I think that’s a part of it. What happened all those years ago has sustained me,” said Gocke. “It gave me self-esteem because getting Coach Jamison’s attention was a hard obstacle to clear.
"Just like basketball, I didn’t want to let myself down. I had to make changes and drinking was tough to get into moderation," Gocke continued. "I know I never drank during the week when I taught, but as I got older I put more limits on myself and here I am today.”
Today, Tim Gocke is what he is as mentioned at the start of this blog. He’s also a first-time, self-published author. And during the book, he has again applied his methodology hatched on a piece of bench in the BHS gymnasium.
“There was drive to complete the book. It’s actually the hardest thing I ever did,” said Gocke. “I had no idea it would be that hard. It took 16 months, but I hope anyone that reads it can draw from it.”
And that leads to this – so why Number Twelve Son? It, too, has its roots back at BHS.
“My sister, Leslie, had Down syndrome and was the baby of the family. My number at BHS was 12 so she started calling me number twelve son. Then the family adopted it and that’s what they called me for years,” said Gocke with a hint of glee in his voice. “She passed from Alzheimer’s a few years back, she was the youngest of five kids, but I always think of her and always think of her with that nickname.”
The book, which can be purchased online at,, and will be featured at a book signing at the West Virginia University Book Store, located in the Mountainlair in downtown, June 16 in Morgantown. That is a Friday and the signing will take place between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Gocke is also preparing to do an audio offering of the book that will feature his own voice.
That’s probably the way it should be. After all, Tim Gocke learned a long time ago to get something done you put in the work and do it yourself.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Tim Gocke holding his new book, while second photo shows Gocke sitting on the bench beside then basketball Coach Wayne "Smiley" Jamison. Third photo shows Bridgeport's first-ever 20-win basketball team, while Gocke is shown with his wife after that. Bottom photo shows "No. 12" running out for the pre-game during his senior season. All photos courtesy of Tim Gocke.

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