CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It seems whatever Jim Justice touches turns to gold.
He rescued The Greenbrier from bankruptcy. He inked a six-year contract with the PGA Tour for The Greenbrier Classic, a tournament few thought he had a chance of landing, let alone moving it to the Fourth of July weekend. And last year the PGA approached him with an extension for The Greenbrier Classic through 2021.
Now, Justice is working his magic on the hardwood with the Greenbrier East boys and girls basketball teams. Justice had guided both the Spartans' boys and girls squads to undefeated records into the last week of January, until Friday night when the boys were upset in the Big Atlantic Classic, a tournament, by the way, that he's been spearheading for 24 years.
The Spartans (16-1) were fourth in last week's Class AAA Associated Press boys poll and were the only undefeated team at 15-0 before the setback. The East girls (14-0), the defending state champions, are the only unblemished team in AAA and have been No. 1 in the AP poll the past four weeks.
"I seem to have the ability to get more out of people than maybe they would customarily do,'' said The Greenbrier resort owner, who also runs Justice Family Farms. "I do that within my businesses. I have a real simple philosophy, and that is the coach or the president has to genuinely care about the kids and the employees, and then the employees and the kids have to really care back.
"That gets a little tough at times. Then the coach or the employer has to make it mandatory that the employees or the kids care for one another. If you can really get that going ... it seems so simple. They love me. They'd fight a grizzly bear for me and they would because they know I'd fight it for them.''
Justice has coached the East girls for 13 seasons, producing six trips to the state tournament since 2003. He guided the school to a 26-1 record last year and its second state title and first since 1981. The Spartans also advanced to the AAA title game in 2004, but lost to South Charleston.
He took on the boys coaching duties last season and finished with a 13-12 mark, their first winning season in several years. They last played in the state tournament in 1986 and their only state title came in 1972.
"When I first came there the first three games I coached for Greenbrier East we lost,'' he said of the girls program. " That's where it all started. We've come a long way. It's been a long, long time since the Greenbrier East boys had this type of basketball team.''
Justice has coached in more than 1,000 games at every level from elementary to semi-pro and compiled a breathtaking 868-173 record for an .834 winning percentage.
"I'm just eat up with passion and enthusiasm,'' he said. "I'm probably the most competitive person you've ever known, but I'm going to be a gentleman if I lose.
"I don't mean this in a bad way, but I'm good at this. I know what I'm good at. I'm confident about knowing all the Xs and Os. I've done this for so long it's unbelievable. And really and truly, I'm better at this than owning The Greenbrier.''
There's no doubt Justice has a knack of bringing together players from diverse backgrounds to form a winning combination.
Last season three girls moved in from out of state, but East meshed the new with the old to capture a state championship. This year they have been tested when two of those starters moved back to their home states because of family circumstances.
"So we took two cannon balls to the stomach,'' Justice said. "You lose a 6-foot-6 post player and a D-1 point guard. [Our players] had to revamp everything. They had to change everything and they've really done a great job.''
On the boys side this season, the Spartans added junior combination guard Rondale Watson, a Class AA first-team all-state selection at Oak Hill last year, and senior point guard Bryce Woodliff, who moved in from the Roanoke, Va., area. Obi Romeo, a 6-9 junior center who is originally from Nigeria, joined the squad last season.
"The boys came in athletic,'' said Justice. "They had no idea how to run within a structure. Rondale was athletic as he could be, but nowhere close to the player he is today. Obi would take [the ball] and run with it and then dunk it. He didn't have any idea how to dribble.