The dean of Big East Conference tennis coaching grew up idolizing the “Dean of College Basketball.”
Rocky Mount High coach Barry Nethercutt admittedly was not quick enough or the optimal height to play college basketball, but that didn’t stop him from being glued to the television as a youngster growing up in Roanoke Rapids.
When the Tar Heels were on, Nethercutt was paying close attention to the team and their legendary coach, Dean Smith.
“I would sit around and watch basketball and draw up my own plays,” Nethercutt said. “I really studied what Dean (Smith) did in games and situations and how he dealt with people.”
Twenty-five years into his coaching career for the Gryphons, Nethercutt has reached a major milestone.
His won his 600th match Wednesday afternoon when the Gryphons defeated Pikeville Aycock, 6-3.
His longevity has come from pure enjoyment of the sport. More of his teams have been up than down, but it’s the athletes that keep Nethercutt invested into a sport he loves.
“I love coaching. It’s the highlight of my workday,” said Nethercutt, who played college tennis at Mt. Olive and N.C. Wesleyan. “I look forward to leaving school and working with the guys and girls. I’ve had such good kids to work with. They are all-around good kids to hang out with.”
Nethercutt’s Rocky Mount squad is one of a number of teams that can win a wide-open Big East Conference regular-season race.
Before the season began, Nethercutt said he believed his sqaud, Northern Nash, Southern Nash and Wilson Fike would each be in the mix.
Then came Tuesday’s surprise, when Nash Central knocked off Rocky Mount, 5-4, in the conference opener to add yet another variable to what should be an interesting month of action.
Wednesday, his players wanted to celebrate the 600th victory by dousing him with Gatorade.
It didn’t work because the coaching veteran was a step ahead.
He had already dumped out the bucket.
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or firstname.lastname@example.org