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Gandee Has Home Court Advantage

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January 28, 2008
Sporty family converts living room into basketball court By Julie Robinson for the Charleston Gazette JANE LEW - When Clarksburg lawyer Steve Gandee, 47, grew up in Clendenin, he and his two brothers played hotly contested basketball games in their small home's narrow hallway. They fashioned a basket out of a coat hanger and the orange mesh from onion bags and hung it at one end of the hall. Steve dreamed of owning a home with an indoor basketball court, but wondered if his dream was realistic. Then he married an athletic woman, middle school teacher Tammy, who also coached basketball. His two children, Stephee, 16, and Drew, 13, both play basketball, as well as other sports. Steve officiates high school and West Virginia Conference college basketball games. The Gandees are basketball people. They attend all 21 games of the state high school tournament every year. Stephee and Drew select their weapons of choice from a rack of balls tucked into a corner of the living room. Several years ago, Steve suggested to Tammy that they convert their 23- by 14-foot living room in their Lewis County home into a basketball court. Tammy said no. Then she called him at work one day. "She was having a garage sale and said she had a buyer for the living room furniture," he said. "I told her to sell it!" Said Tammy, "At first I thought he was crazy, but then I kind of went with it." Steve researched indoor basketball construction and ordered the regulation maple hardwood planks and special varnish with the proper friction coefficient for basketball courts. The contractor who built his house lives next door. He said the floor would not require any reinforcement. He installed the hardwood and placed the same Plexiglas that is used around hockey arenas over the living room's generous windows. Steve ordered one of the guards that is used in school gymnasiums to protect the clocks and attached it around the overhead light. They mounted the basket at 10 feet, regulation height, right over the opening into the family room to allow space for rebounding. After players drive in for a lay-up, they usually bound into the family room before coming to a stop. The sound of bouncing balls echoes through the house and is especially loud in the adjoining family room. "We usually go upstairs to watch television," Tammy said. Tammy's father, 74, picks up a ball and challenges his grandchildren to a game of Horse or Pig every time he walks in the door. Drew and Stephee play daily, although Stephee also uses the room with its cathedral ceilings to practice baton twirling. She is the lead twirler for Lewis County High School Band. The front doors of the Gandee home open to a set of custom wood lockers in the foyer, a sight that warms up visitors for a view of the adjoining basketball court. Friend and former school administrator Paul Derico made the lockers for Steve, who wanted attractive lockers such as ones that grace professionals' locker rooms. "I wanted something that said, 'Come in our house, come into our locker room,'" Steve said. Drew and Stephee hang their uniforms and keep their court shoes in the lockers. They sit on the bench, also constructed by Derico, to change their shoes. If the Gandees ever tire of their basketball theme, or want to sell their home, the light guard, Plexiglas and baskets can all be removed, leaving only an especially well-varnished wood floor as a clue to the room's hard-court past. The only damage so far was a hole in the wall from a neighbor's dunk attempt that went astray. Steve patched the spot where the player's foot went through the wallboard. The Gandee basketball roots run deep. Steve's father, Bob Gandee, coached at Elkview Junior High and his uncle, Carlton Gandee, coached at Herbert Hoover High School. Steve never played for his father, but he played against him when his school, Clendenin Junior High School played Elkview. Steve played basketball at Hoover for his uncle and played football and baseball at Glenville State. Bob Gandee officiated basketball games to supplement his income, and Steve frequently tagged along. His reasons for officiating differ from his father's. "It's certainly not for the money. I could stay at the office for an hour and make more," Steve said. "It keeps me involved in the game, and there is a desperate need for officials." In his 23 basketball seasons, Steve has officiated more than 600 high school and 200 college games. The four active family members frequently head in different directions. On some days, a quick game of roundball in the living room might be the most they see of each other. Steve referees games across the state, from Bluefield to Wheeling and Huntington to Martinsburg, and logs between 3,100 and 3,500 miles a month traveling to games. Drew and Stephee have basketball practice or games every day. Until this year, Tammy coached middle school basketball, but gave it up this year so she could attend the children's games. She coached volleyball in the fall, though. She keeps the family's schedule straight on a large wall calendar. Steve laughs whenever someone tells him how nice he was to convert his living room to a basketball court for his children. "Oh, sure, they love it," he said. "But I've waited 45 years for this." Reprinted with permission.