By Jesse Wolfersberger: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Benny Stockton is remembered as a fierce competitor, a great coach, a practical joker, and a loving father.
Stockton died on Thursday. He was 68. He was a boys basketball coach at Dora and Portales High Schools, was the athletic director at PHS for 15 years and, after his retirement in 1990, was an assistant coach for the Eastern New Mexico women’s basketball team.
His sister, Sharon Janecka, said she has seen the type of impact her brother had on his players in recent days.
“I cannot tell you the number of people that have come through and told us how much they loved him,” Janecka said. “I’ve heard grown men cry the past couple of days.”
Stockton grew up with basketball a major part of his life. His father, William T. Stockton, coached at Clovis High School and later at the University of New Mexico. In high school, Benny Stockton played basketball under his father at Clovis then at Highland High School in Albuquerque. He went on to play a year on the freshman team at UNM, then as a starter for ENMU.
Benny’s son, Bill Stockton, said Benny knew how tough it was to play on a team coached by his father, and he didn’t want his own son to have to go through that experience.
“At the time, I wanted him as a coach because I idolized him,” Bill Stockton said. “But he knew what it was going to be like.”
With his son entering his sophomore year at PHS, Benny Stockton gave up coaching and took the position as athletic director at the school.
Bill Stockton became a coach himself and said he now knows how tough it must have been to give up coaching.
“It was one of the greatest sacrifices you can make for your kids,” Bill Stockton said.
Janecka said as a boy Benny Stockton brought home any stray dog he found and claimed it followed him home every time. She said he treated every student and player with the same love and care.
“Too often we don’t give enough credit to coaches and teachers about how they affect people’s lives,” she said.
Jim Vardeman was Stockton’s best friend for the better part of a century. Vardeman said Stockton was tough but fair as a coach.
“He was very involved in the officiating,” Vardeman laughed. “But the kids all respected him because he knows his basketball.”
As a coach, Benny Stockton won two state titles.
Vardeman said people like Benny Stockton do not come along very often.
“He was the greatest guy in the world,” Vardeman said. “You couldn’t ask for anyone better than him.”
After retirement in 1990, Wayne Moore was in need of some help coaching Zias basketball at ENMU and Stockton helped him out.
“He had a great basketball mind,” Moore said. “And he was a great teacher of the game. He wanted execution on both ends of the floor.”
In addition to being a good assistant coach, Moore said everything was just a little bit more fun when Benny Stockton was around.
“You don’t have enough room in the entire paper to tell all the stories,” Moore said.
It is hard to imagine that Stockton went through college on a basketball scholarship considering he had polio at the age of 6 and lost an eye in seventh grade. He wore a glass eye for the rest of his life … when he wasn’t using it as a prop for practical jokes.
Jim Love, an assistant under Stockton for the Rams, said the glass eye made for great entertainment at restaurants.
“He would take it out and put it in a glass of water,” Love said, then tell the waitress, ‘There is something wrong with my water.’ Or sometimes he would put it in the potatoes. It looked pretty funny to see an eye looking up at ya from a potato.”
Janecka said the glass eye also worked its way into practices on a few occasions.
“Once when he was coaching the girls at Eastern he popped it out and put it on the free throw line,” she said. “He told them he wasn’t going to put it back in until they all made 30 free throws.”