ELIZABETHTON -- Charlie Bayless Night was a night of celebration at Happy Valley.
Roscoe “Charlie” Bayless, the nation’s longest tenured high school coach, was honored Friday night for his record 62 years on the sidelines and 60 years as a head coach.
Bayless, who has spent the last 59 years at his alma mater, hammed it up for the crowd before the Warriors’ game against Sullivan East.
He came out dressed in war paint and a head dress, posed for pictures with throngs of people and even did a little dance at halfcourt with Patriots head coach John Dyer.
“I was dreading it,” Bayless said. “I thought dressing up would be so silly, but once I got started, I had a great time and really enjoyed it.
“When I get on that stage and get in the spotlight, I just have a good time and go with it.”
The Warrior faithful, which included a student section featuring several of its members with body paint, responded to the electric atmosphere with chants of Roscoe throughout the basketball gym which bears the 88-year-old coach’s name.
Despite an inspired start which saw Happy Valley score the first four points, the game didn’t go the Warriors way. Happy Valley trailed just 13-10 when the Patriots reeled off 12 straight points as part of a larger 18-2 run.
The score was 37-18 at the half and East maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half, winning by a 64-47 score.
The win improved the Patriots’ record to 7-3 in the Three Rivers Conference and 21-7 overall. Happy Valley fell to 1-9 in the league and 5-15 overall.
But, even the winning coach admitted the game was secondary on this night.
Dyer, while not wanting to downplay the efforts of his team which included David Casaday scoring 20 points, Daniel Truett 13 points and Chance Davis 10 points, talked about being a part of the special night.
“I’ve coached against Coach Bayless 28 years and I’ve learned so much from him,” Dyer said. “He always shows great class. He always appreciates great players whether they’re on his team or the opposing teams.
“He’s been a wonderful man to me with his friendship. There aren’t words to express what me and all the people at East feel about Coach Bayless.”
It was a night to remember for Happy Valley’s senior group of Bradley Townsend, Justin Reagan, Jonathan Holt and Donivan Grindstaff who were honored before Bayless.
Fitting, all of the final senior class scored with Grindstaff posting a team-high 12 points.
More importantly, they played in front of a capacity crowd full of former HV alumni.
Russell Kyte, who began coming to Happy Valley games in 1957, and later played for Bayless as part of the class of 1962, talked about what it meant to be in attendance for the coach’s final home game.
“It’s a sad moment for me,” Kyte said. “I went 30-some years and never missed a ballgame with him. It’s wonderful that they did this for him.
“He’s been great for basketball in Upper East Tennessee. I’ve been to the state tournament with him and everybody down there knows him. He’s a legend on the basketball court, and more than that, a great person.”
An added bonus for Happy Valley fans was seeing Dickie Renfro, Bayless’ longest-serving assistant coach on the bench along with other assistant coaches, Bobby Sams, Larry Abel and Jeremy Maddox.
Renfro, who was Bayless’ top assistant for nearly three decades, was thrilled to be a part of the coach’s farewell on Warrior Hill.
“It was fantastic,” Renfro said. “I was thrilled when coach Bayless asked me to come back and be a part of this. He’s always been a crowd pleaser, a person who loved to have school spirit. To him, that’s what it’s all about.”
At the end of the night, Bayless, his wife Jane, and four daughters were all honored for their longtime service to the school and community.
Bayless talked about appreciating the night, as well other schools paying homage to him.
“Everywhere I’ve been people have been so nice to me,” Bayless said. “Even places like Erwin and Hampton, those big rivalries, they’ve been so good to me.
“I saw so many of the old ballplayers and students. It was great, such a great crowd tonight. I appreciated it so much, even the East people, they were so nice tonight.”