While long-time teacher/coach, Buddy Farris, is neither property nor money, the legacy he has created over the past 34 years has definitely been valuable to a host of individuals.
That was never more obvious than last Saturday night when family, friends, co-workers, fellow coaches, and current and former players gathered at Newbern Community Christian Church to pay tribute to a man who has and continues to have such an impact on others.
As Farris and wife, Harriet, walked into the church, it was with admiration and pride that everyone stood to their feet to welcome him into the surprise event.
Farris will be retiring from teaching physical education at Dublin Middle School in June. He as been asked to continue coaching girls’ basketball even after retirement, but a decision has not been made as of yet.
Farris has served as both the girls’ and boys’ basketball coach at Dublin Middle School, and for seven years, was the varsity head coach for the Lady Cougars at Pulaski County High School.
As the coach of the boys’ squad at DMS, he finished with a 156-75 career record. As the Dukes’ girls’ coach, he is 270-55 (including this season) and still coaching.
During his seven years at PCHS, his squads captured three district titles. His overall record was 112-42 and during the 1995-96 season, the Lady Cougars won the Roanoke Valley District Championship, made it to the Final 8, and Farris was tapped AAA State Coach of the Year.
During 1996-97 campaign, his team again claimed the RVD championship, was Northwest Region champions, and he was named RVD Coach of the Year. His final district title came in 1999-2000, when his girls captured the district once more and he was again named RVD Coach of the Year.
Yes, his teams won championships and he received recognition as their leader. However, nothing could compare to the praise, love, and respect he was shown by those that spoke of his outstanding character, Christian witness, success, and lessons taught by this man who sat before them.
The emcee of the event was Michael “Scotty” Scott, who happened to have played basketball for Farris during his tenure with the boys’ program at Dublin.
“I love him like a father. I had the privilege of playing for him in middle school, again at New River Community College (where he coached one season), and then I had the honor of coaching with him at Pulaski County High School,” said Scott.
“There is no doubt that I became PE teacher, a Christian, and better father because of the influence of this man,” he added.
Trying to lighten the mood, Scott also had the crowd laughing as he told stories about Farris’ ability to change so much from year to year.
“During my seventh grade year, he had more hair on his head than he did the year before. And then it wasn’t too long until it was gone again,” said Scott, speaking of a toupee that Farris wore for a period of time during those years.
Several other former players also gave insight as to how Farris has impacted their lives.
Anthony Akers began by saying, “I’m here to honor a man who has had a major impact on my life.”
“As an eighth grader, we quickly realized that I wasn’t going to grow to be very tall. But, he taught me that in life, heart rules over height,” Akers, who went on to be the Cougar point guard and attend Elon College where he played basketball, continued.
He also noted that Farris talked about the Lord and remembers him saying when players’ behavior was less than desirable that God would not be pleased with that type of behavior.
“He told me if I wanted to be a good dribbler, to go dribble in the grass with both hands. I’ve never forgotten that,” said Akers.
As Community Activities Director for Pulaski County, Akers remarked, “I’ve always wanted to instill character into young people like Coach Farris instilled in me,” as he thanked Farris for his influence in his life, for being a father figure, and told him how much he respected him and how he wanted to share the things with young people today, that Farris helped to instill in him.
Kevin Alexander, also a former player who went on to play at Emory & Henry, echoed Akers’ remarks. “We had great times together,” said Alexander. He told of an AAU trip to Charlottesville, where Farris led them to a second place finish. He also acknowledged the Christian witness that Farris always displayed while coaching.
“ We never heard him curse. He set a good example that we could follow,” said Alexander.
During Farris’ years as head coach of the PCHS girls’ program, there was one team the Lady Cougars had to get by in order to win the district every year. The Pulaski County-Cave Spring rivalry was like no other during that time span before Cave Spring was divided into two schools.
To the amusement of the crowd, Scott noted that Cave Spring had so much respect for the Cougars, that they had a play named Embert-which happens to be Coach Farris’ real name.
The coach of that Cave Spring team, Linda Long, was on hand to provide a little insight into those years and express the mutual respect the players and coaches from both programs had for each other.
Long, who during her tenure as the Knights’ head coach, was selected RVD Coach of the Year nine times, NWR Coach of the Year three times, and AAA State Coach of the Year once.
It was not uncommon in those days for Pulaski County and Cave Spring to battle three, four, and even five times during a season with standing room only when the games were played at Cave Spring.
“It had to be one of the most intense rivalries in Southwestern Virginia. Everything we did was in preparation for Pulaski County. We had to beat Pulaski County to win the district and sometimes the region. We went to tournaments and camps just to prepare for Pulaski County. I coached for 25 years and the Pulaski County games were good times,” noted Long.
“Our players had mutual respect for each other and our coaching staffs had mutual respect for each other. We knew Coach Farris would have them ready to play,” she continued.
Long told of a summer camp at High Point where both Pulaski County and Cave Spring attended. During this camp, it came down to none other than Pulaski County and Cave Spring for the camp championship.
“Parents drove down just to see that one game and it was like we were playing for a national championship. Cave won by one point. But it was July! It didn’t matter, it was a rivalry like no other,” smiled Long.
“We wanted each other to do well against everyone else. We exchanged tapes and helped each other because we knew we had to beat everyone else. We wanted each other to do well so we could meet each other. Farris has a love and passion for the game. I count it a privilege to know him and to have coached against him.
“He has had a great influence on coaches and players and he has been good for Pulaski County and the girls’ basketball program here. We made each other better because we had a goal to bring the power of Group AAA girls’ basketball to Southwest Virginia and to take it away from Gar-Field, Woodbridge, Brooke Point and others and we were able to do that for a few years,” noted Long.
“It was a great rivalry and I enjoyed it,” she added as she wished him good luck in retirement and reminded him that after five years of being retired from coaching herself, she is now officiating basketball, to the laughs of the crowd.
“I appreciate you and consider you my friend,” she said.
Scott then opened the microphone for anyone else that would like to speak.
Both of Farris’ sons, David and Danny, spoke of fond memories both on the court and off, and thanked their dad for being the man he is and for bringing them up in a Christian home.
“I know God called him to teaching and coaching,” said David.
Richard Lewis, assistant coach to Farris at Dublin Middle School, remarked, “It has been a joy to know him as a coach and friend. He’s the type of coach you would want your son or daughter to be coached by, there’s no doubt.”
Season (Childress) Davis said,” My whole life has been influenced by Coach Farris. My will to win, my discipline, my intensity and I hate to lose.”
Troy Dalton and Lindsey Reed both expressed their appreciation for what Farris had instilled in them. “I was one of the few that played for Coach Farris for seven years. I had him in middle school for three years. I thought I was going to get to play for someone new in high school and then he moved up with me to the high school for my ninth grade season,” she joked.
“He taught us to execute and play with passion. He taught us to live life with heart,” said Reed.
Scott then read a poem, which he had written to honor Farris to conclude the program.
Farris then took the microphone and it was obvious that he was moved by the kind words of the people that he has impacted the most.
“I’m overwhelmed. What success I have had, I owe to God. I truly believe God led me here. I appreciate all this so much. There are a lot of coaches out there that are better than I am. But you are never too old to learn. When I am too old to learn, it will be time to get out of coaching. Each day when I go to school, I just want to be an example. My prayer each day is just to encourage a child to live a better life,” he said.
“This was a total surprise. I was surprised to see Linda. That means so much that she would come here tonight. I don’t know that I really deserve this, but it really brought back a lot of memories to hear everyone speak,” he continued.
He noted the game that stands out the most to him is when undefeated Gar-Field came to Pulaski County and the Cougars upset the Northern Virginia squad which was ranked second in the state at the time.
Of course, when we beat Cave Spring for the district title, that was always nice,” he smiled.
Following the speakers, everyone gathered in the fellowship hall of the church where those in attendance could see just a glimpse of the honors and accolades that Farris’ players had brought him over the years.
There were trophies, videos playing of various games, championship basketballs, pictures, and numerous newspaper clippings and basketball special sections, highlighting and honoring a coach and all the players that have helped shape his career and define his legacy.
What a career it has been, and it’s still not over.