R.I.P. Legend of Legends – Coach Charlie Bayless has traded his towel for a Robe

Published 1:05 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2022

There will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain.  There will be an absence of suffering, disease, deception, and sin.  It will be awesome.
This week Coach Charlie Bayless left this world. He left behind thousands of players, students, former coaches, and assistants that he touched, leaving unforgettable memories that will last forever.
I don’t know anything that Charlie didn’t love in his almost 99 years on this Earth.  He especially loved his family, who followed him to every game, home or away, for 60 years.
He loved his coaching friends, who played golf and went on fishing trips with him during the off-season. He loved his players who would have followed him anywhere, as General Patton’s troops followed him into battle.
He loved God and read the Bible in his special place.  He loved the students in his woodworking classes and loved showing them how to build things out of wood pieces. He made his ping pong paddles that he became so famous for later in his career to go along with the legendary white towel worn over his shoulder during games.
Along with teaching his students to build, he taught young boys to become men, girls to be good mothers, and he taught many coaches how to coach basketball.
Donald Ensor, who coached the Unaka Rangers to the 2004 state title, gave Coach Bayless the credit for allowing him to attend his practices and teaching him some great points about the game of basketball.
Danny Chandler, TSSAA Official said, “When you think of Happy Valley, the first person and picture that comes to your mind is Coach Bayless. He was a great coach, friend, and will be missed by everyone who knew him. I would call him every year on his birthday and will miss our talks.”
Coach Bayless remembered everything about his players until the day he left us.  He would always ask about their families when he would meet them on the street, years after they had left Happy Valley. He called Michael Hawkins twenty years after he graduated and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him.
“Coach Bayless touched countless lives during his lifetime and through those lives, will continue to positively impact generations to come,” stated Buff Walker who played on the last two state tournament teams at Happy Valley, including the 1974 State Champs.
Hampton was the top team in the state and had beaten the Warriors three times during the 1973-74 season.  However, when the trip to Memphis was on the line, the “Wonder Warriors” of Coach Bayless stepped up and eliminated Coach Jerry White’s Bulldogs.
White was in his third year coaching at Hampton and this had to be the biggest loss of his career, but he became one of Coach Bayless’ best friends and was included on many of those summer fishing trips.
White also won his 600th game by beating the Warriors years later and Coach Bayless wore a big sign onto the court that said, “Unlucky 600th Victim”.  Rex Dugger said, “He was a great coach to play against when I was at Hampton.  He always had a kind word for you, win or lose.”
Bayless’ close friends, like Russell Kyte, Charles Phipps, and J.C. Campbell, spent many years telling war stories on the banks of a lake where they caught thousands of fish.  Ray Burchfield, a former Warrior player, attended one of Coach Bayless’ practices in 2012 and said the coach was as active then as he was in the 1960s…running the court, dribbling the ball and showing the boys how to play defense.
Bayless taught his players a guarding position and told them Wilt Chamberlain couldn’t score on him from that position.
Coach Bayless was full of laughs and everyone who knew him had a Coach Bayless story to tell you.  Bayless didn’t have many assistants through the years, with Coach Dickie Renfro having the longest tenure.
Renfro started just after the state tournament win and stayed until the 2012 season.  Eddie Garland was one of the state tournament coaches, along with former Unaka head coach, John Hyatt.
Garland said, “He was a great influence on my life.  I was so blessed that he and his family were a big part of my life.  I know of no one that did more in his life to do what God sent him here to do.  What a blessing to so many.”
Granddaughter Missy Walker called him her hero and granddaughter, Kortney Goulds, was always bragging on her papaw.
He could walk the walk and talk the talk, even though not many players could understand what he was saying until they were juniors or seniors.  Nobody ever talked back and they knew who was the boss.
Randy Curde, another ’74 state champion player said, “When he was shouting instructions to you, he would always conclude with, ‘follow me, follow me’ stated really fast.”
As for Jane, his wife of over 74 years, she attended more games than he did.  She played basketball while in high school at Happy Valley and their four daughters were all cheerleaders for the Warriors and were the Coach’s biggest accomplishments.  He loved them dearly and was excited to see them when they came to visit.
Shelby Miller stated, “This is a great loss to our community.  Coach Bayless was a great coach. When I played for him he coached basketball with one assistant coach. He was also the baseball coach with no assistant coach. He coached track with no assistant coach and was also an assistant coach for football.  He did it all.  R.I.P. Coach.”
Miller has been officiating for over 55 years and was selected to the TSSAA Hall of Fame in 2020.
Coach Bayless’ life and love of sports inspired me to write a book on his coaching career last year, which was released in September of 2021 and has sold out.  A second edition, with revisions and updates, is in the works.
I visited Coach Bayless two to three times a week and listened to his stories.  When I would get ready to leave, sometimes being there almost three hours, he would ask me, “What’s your hurry”?
He loved talking sports and he remembered his players, players from other teams, and the scores of many games.  It was time to leave one day and I said, “Coach, I have one more question.  If you could come back and coach one more game, would you like to do that?”
He kind of scared me.  He came out of his chair, got directly in front of me and pointed his finger, and said “I would work on defense.  Coaches today just want to run up and down the floor, they don’t work on defense.”
I knew if he was able, he would have come back and coached one more game.
Last fall, Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby honored Coach Bayless and his family with a proclamation for his coaching and for his 54 years of service as a Carter County Commissioner.
I spent many hours talking to Coach Bayless over a six-month period at his home and on the phone. When I took him the first copy of the book, which I titled, “100 Years as a Warrior”, I could feel that his life was now complete, that everyone could read about the great legend, Coach Roscoe “Charlie” Bayless and his friends.
The book also brought most of his 1974 state champion team together one more time to get their pictures made with him and their book signed by the Legend of Legends.
In 100 years, people will still be talking about this great man, who inspired so many to become who they are today.  If anyone ever epitomized a school and community, it was Coach Bayless.
I think a bronze statue of Coach Bayless should stand at the entrance of the school, because he was Happy Valley.  Bayless currently ranks fourth in the state of Tennessee high school basketball for most wins in a career.
Rest assured, more important to him than the wins, were “his boys”…his players who he influenced, who became preachers, doctors, and contributing members of communities where they live.
Charlie Bayless helped make our area a better place to live while he was alive and through his actions, a better place in the future.
He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.

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