Gary Blair tribute

Dancers perform for Gary Blair, center, head coach of the Texas A&M women's basketball team, as he arrives at the Miramont Country Club on Friday evening for the "King of the Court: A Tribute to Gary Blair" event.

After Texas A&M women's basketball coach Gary Blair cut down the nets in Indianapolis in celebration of the Aggies' 2011 national championship, he didn't indulge in an expensive dinner.

Blair gathered up his family and took them to a nearby Steak 'n Shake.

On Friday, surrounded by suits and fancy dresses at Miramont Country Club, that down-to-earth goodness was honored as part of a tribute dinner in Blair's honor, which also supported the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History.

Each year, the museum selects one individual who emphasizes a philanthropic dedication to the community to honor at the annual fundraiser banquet, museum executive director Deborah Cowman said.

"Who better than coach Blair?" she said. "Every year we've picked outstanding individuals and this year we thought, with his charities and all the time that he spends encouraging and inspiring young people, he was really a perfect choice."

Funds raised from ticket sales, a live auction and a raffle are given to the museum to continue its mission of inspiring young minds in the Brazos Valley, Cowman said.

As the "King of the Court" for the night, Blair was whisked to the event in a limo, accompanied by his family. Upon arrival, the coach and his clan were welcome with a performance by members of the Brazos Ballet in the circle drive of the country club.

Once inside, a select number of friends, co-workers and family took to the stage to honor, thank and, of course, roast the hall-of-fame coach.

"As you know, he never meets a stranger," Blair's brother Steve told the audience. "Typically, they will get to talking to them, and he will learn everything about them. And twice that amount of time, he tells them about himself."

Away from Reed Arena, Blair has become a mainstay in charitable work with the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Fun for All Park and the local school districts.

"He is trying to develop a community here," Bryan Mayor Andrew Nelson said. "Not just a community of people that go to basketball games, but a community."

For the coach who already has received some of the game's highest honors, Friday was about celebrating the good works that continue to occur around the Bryan-College Station area.

"It teaches you to give back, because you have so many people around this community that keep giving and giving and giving," he said. "It's not just the ones that give thousands and thousands of dollars. It's the workers. It's the ones that volunteer their time."

Blair was given the spotlight, some laughs and even a personalized serenade by an Elvis impersonator for his contributions to the area during his 16 years in the community.

But, in typical fashion, Blair didn't leave Friday's banquet without giving just a little more -- 10 free tickets to Sunday's game against Alabama, which he carried in the back pocket of his tuxedo. It's a move that his assistant coach Bob Starkey predicted during his time at the microphone.

"That's my guy right there," Starkey said through the audience's laughter as Blair waved a stack of tickets in the air.

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