Monday, 30 March 2020
Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
In the midst of the ongoing bad news 2020 has generated during the battle with the COVID-19 virus, basketball coaches Dee Hardy of the E.E. Smith girls and George Stackhouse of the Westover boys got a bit of good news recently when the North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association announced its All-State teams.
Hardy and Smith got a double dose of recognition as she was named the NCBCA’s girls basketball coach of the year while freshman Miya Giles-Jones made the All-State third team chosen by the coaches.
For Stackhouse, the news was that Westover junior D’Marco Dunn was picked to the All-State second team for the boys.
Hardy led the Smith girls to a 31-1 record and a still pending state 3-A championship game matchup with Southeast Guilford.
The Westover boys are a perfect 30-0 and are also on hold as the North Carolina High School Athletic Association has suspended all sports competition until mid-May because of COVID-19, with Westover awaiting a championship matchup against Morganton Freedom for the 3-A title.
Neither Hardy nor Stackhouse were surprised that their players were chosen for All-State recognition by their fellow coaches.
A 5-foot-10 guard, Giles-Jones was a versatile player for the Smith girls, averaging 13.4 points and 10.3 rebounds. Dunn, a 6-foot-4 junior guard, was the leading scorer among boys from the Cumberland County Schools with 20.8 points per game and 7.3 rebounds. He also led in 3-point baskets with 70.
Hardy said Giles-Jones had several double-doubles during the season and was able to do anything on the court that Hardy asked her to do. “She rebounds well and is strong, puts it back up,’’ Hardy said. “She could also handle the ball well.
“We could take her and move her to face the basket as well as post her up, depending on who was guarding her.’’
Stackhouse said Dunn was an efficient player, adding that his scoring and rebounding totals didn’t tell the full story about his ability. “He put up a lot of those numbers in three quarters,’’ Stackhouse said, noting that Dunn frequently went to the bench in the fourth quarter of games the Wolverines had already wrapped up.
“I think he had 38 points in one game this year and only put up 15 or 16 shots,’’ Stackhouse said. “He shot maybe 50% from three-point in conference games. He just did a lot of things to help us win. To be that good, he had to put in a lot of work.’’
The last few weeks have been difficult ones for Hardy, Stackhouse and their players. It has been some weeks since the NCHSAA announced this year’s state basketball championship games would be placed on hold as the entire country is dealing with the fallout from COVID-19.
Both Hardy and Stackhouse are hopeful that the championship games will eventually be played, but the prospects are looking grimmer as the days pass.
Last week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced that the state’s public schools would remain closed at least until May 15. Shortly after that announcement, NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker said the association would extend its hold on all high school athletic competition and practice by its member schools until at least May 18. She added that it was becoming increasingly unlikely that the NCHSAA will be able to hold spring sports this year.
In an earlier teleconference with statewide media, Tucker said that the NCHSAA would not extend the spring sports season into the summer months because of commitments many high school athletes had with summer sports camps and other obligations.
The state championship basketball games that Westover and Smith are hoping to play are an entirely different matter. Tucker indicated that the state would be able to play those in a much shorter period of time, possibly allowing the competing teams five days or so to return to practice, then finding them a venue where they could play.
But as much as they’d like to play a title game, both Hardy and Stackhouse had doubts what kind of title game it would be with only five days to prepare.
“I don’t know how realistic it is to take such a long time off and then come back in five days,’’ Stackhouse said. “That kind of feels like disrespect for your game. That would be like having a championship game after the first week of practice. The level of play and the level of conditioning wouldn’t be the same.’’
Hardy said her present focus has had little to do with thinking about playing a championship game and more about concern for the safety of her players, making sure they are avoiding becoming infected by COVID-19 and making sure they have enough to eat during the shutdown.
“It makes everything else seem so small as far as facing adversity,’’ she said. “It’s hard to keep that focus and that intensity.’’
Although she’s had contact with her players, Hardy said she doesn’t know if they are exercising or what they may be doing to stay in anything close to
She said she had made phone calls to her players, but the subject was academics, not basketball. “I don’t want them to lose anything as far as the academic piece,’’ she said. “For me it’s a little bigger than athletics. My concern was are they going to complete their packets, their online work, for school.’’
While the teams left to play in the finals of the basketball titles have won Eastern and Western titles this season, no decision has been made on what they’ll awarded if the title game isn’t played.
There was a time when the NCHSAA ended state playoffs in football with Eastern and Western winners. If the title game can’t be played this year, Hardy knows what she would prefer.
“I’d rather see it as co-champions,’’ she said.
Monday, 23 March 2020
Written by Earl Vaughan Jr.
Men who coached with him called the late Nathan Pittman one of the smartest people they ever knew, and an assistant football coach who was impossible to fool.
Pittman, who was part of four championship football teams in Fayetteville, died recently and was recognized during a celebration of life
service on March 15 at Rogers and Breece Funeral Home.
A native of Florida, Pittman came to Fayetteville as a young man and held assistant coaching jobs at a variety of local high schools. But it was at Seventy-First and South View high schools where he saw his greatest success in his role as defensive coordinator. He helped lead the 1970 Seventy-First team to the Eastern 3-A title, which was as far as schools could go in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs at the time.
He was a part of three state championship teams under head coach Bobby Poss, two at Seventy-First in the 1980s and a third at South View High School in the 1990s.
After Poss left South View, Pittman ended his coaching career with stops at Terry Sanford and Gray’s Creek high schools.
Greg Killingsworth played for Pittman his first year at Seventy-First and later hired him to coach at Terry Sanford when Killingsworth was athletic director there.
“If you were playing Trivial Pursuit, you wanted him on your team,’’ Killingsworth said. “He was the smartest man I ever met.’’
As for his skills as a football coach, Killingsworth said Pittman was way ahead of the game as a defensive coordinator. “He studied what people did and predicted exactly what they were going to do,’’ Killingsworth said. “You could move the football from the 20 to the 20, but when the field got smaller, his defense always rose to the occasion.’’
Bernie Poole, who became head basketball coach at Seventy-First, came to the school in 1984 and worked with Pittman as an assistant football coach.
“He made great adjustments when he watched films,’’ Poole said. “He never wanted to be a head coach. He liked who he worked for and that’s what kept him going.’’
Poss, who has won more NCHSAA football championships at different schools than any coach in state history, called Pittman a big part of any success he had while coaching at Seventy-First and South View.
“He was intelligent and he wasn’t one to get snookered,’’ Poss said. “You weren’t going to pull the wool over his eyes, whether you were the backup linebacker or the head coach.’’
Former Terry Sanford and Gray’s Creek head coach Bill Yeager took Pittman with him when he started the football program at Gray’s Creek.
“He was as knowledgeable as any football coach I’ve been around, I don’t care what level,’’ Yeager said. “I didn’t have to worry about the defense at all. He ran the defense, from top to bottom.’’
But Yeager said there was more than Xs and Os with Pittman. “He cared about the young men as far as being good people,’’ Yeager said. “The kids knew he cared about them. That was why they played so hard for him.’’