John Grocott 1937-2020

John Grocott began playing basketball at Wellington College in the 1950s and continued when he came to Christchurch. He joined the University Basketball Club in 1956 and became treasurer of the club in the early 1960s. This was the start of his career in basketball administration.

In 1963, John was playing mid-week basketball in Christchurch as, along with many others then, his prime winter sport was rugby. The playing of basketball was at that time, due to the minor following of the sport, seen as a fitness and conditioning exercise rather than a serious sport.

Somewhere along the line, John became enamoured with basketball and began to treat it as his primary winter sport and established a life-long involvement with it.

John was elected to the Canterbury Men’s Basketball Association in the mid 1960s and when the men’s and women’s associations amalgamated in 1972, he was the President of the Men’s Association. Grocott took up the role of Vice-President of the newly combined association. He also acted as Treasurer of the new association, and still supported it after his departure to the national body in 1980 with any accounting issues or assistance as required by the CBA.

In 1970, John was heavily involved in setting up and running the Friday night Secondary Schools competition in Christchurch, which was the first such competition in New Zealand run by the local Association rather than the schools themselves. He ran the competition almost single-handedly until 1980. He started with 24 teams playing on two courts and ended with over 100 teams playing at seven separate venues.

That same year (1970) he was elected to the Executive of Basketball New Zealand, based in Christchurch and remained on that board for 10 years. He took on the responsibility of handling the finances of the National Association.

When the New Zealand Basketball Foundation was formed 1989, John became the auditor of that body and continued in that role until 2018. In 1990 the BBNZ office was moved to Auckland, so John stepped down from the Board and assumed the role of auditor for a number of years.

Refereeing was John’s other passion in basketball alongside administration and he achieved his official referee’s badge in 1967. He refereed regularly in Christchurch competitions for 40 years and was still refereeing some school games up until 2015. It was not unusual for him to referee two school games on a Saturday morning and then referee two senior club games in the afternoon when he was in his prime.

He attended and refereed at a number of National Tournaments, including secondary school and age group tournaments and also inter-provincial games between senior South Island teams. He never aspired to referee in the National Basketball League, although he did referee one game when a referee was prevented from arriving by fog in Wellington.

A couple of stories from long time friend and fellow life member Peter Crowhen, about John in the refereeing space:

  • John was noted for arriving very shortly before the start of any game. This was probably because of his refereeing workload, but when you were doing a game with John you knew that this was going to happen, so delayed the start a little. He was the only person that I have seen run into a gym still putting on his sneakers. Quite a feat!
  • Once, the late Ray Thomson asked John and I to referee a game between his CBHS side and a side from Nelson College in the CBHS gymnasium. All was going well until the late Robin Milligan walked into the gym with the American referees who were to referee that weekend the Olympic Qualifying matches between NZ and Australia. At the next stoppage, John came over to me and said “these guys are the American refs that have been appointed to officiate in the NZ v Australia Oceania Qualifying series. We had better lift our game.” From that point onward I hardly got a call in as John took over and called almost everything.

He was most content with a back-room role rather than the being in the limelight. He could easily have taken on the top administration roles in basketball but chose to put his effort into those things that he was really passionate about, such as secondary school basketball, refereeing and ensuring financial prudence.

Grocott was also involved with the National Coaches Association as well as the National Referees Association, which were both located in Christchurch.

John was honoured with numerous awards from both Basketball New Zealand and Canterbury Basketball:

  • He was made a Life Member of Canterbury Basketball in 1999 and thenow disestablished Canterbury Basketball Officials Association in 1998.
  • BBNZ awarded him the Sir Lance Cross Award for exceptional service to the sport in 1993, Life Membership in 2007 and his long service award for 50 years’ service in 2018.

It wasn’t just receiving awards that John did, he also was readily available to present them when needed for the CBA.

John was a hugely valued member of the basketball community and both he and his wisdom will be sorely missed.

Finally, let us thank Lola on behalf of both Canterbury and New Zealand Basketball for the unwavering support that she gave to John over the many years of his involvement in the sport.

The Canterbury Basketball Association is indebted to Peter Crowhen  for putting this snapshot of John Grocott’s life together. John passed away in early 2020, and was the survived by wife Lola, children Sara, Eve, David and Tim, and eight grandchildren.