This has been a very good week for the Chattanooga Mocs Athletic Department. The men’s and women’s basketball teams continue to fly high in the Southern Conference, while head football coach Russ Heusman capped off the number one recruiting class in all of FCS football on Wednesday. The wrestling Mocs are doing very well as always, and after leaving the Mocs’ basketball program almost 17 years ago, former Coach Mack McCarthy was elected to the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame.
This honor is well deserved, though it is also long overdue. Mack is still the winningest basketball coach in Chattanooga history and his last team in 1997 advanced all the way to the NCAA “Sweet 16” before finally bowing out. No Moc team has ever been as far as the Johnny Taylor-led Mocs of 1997.
Coach McCarthy put together a record of 243 wins and 122 losses in 12 seasons at UTC. His final career record of 343-224 (60%) is much better than average, and while he may not actively be searching for another coaching position, I still believe the man can coach.
Mack has been the assistant athletic director at East Carolina State University for the past several years. He has been popular and well-liked every place he has been, especially here in Chattanooga.
I hosted the Mack McCarthy Coach’s show on television for five seasons and every single show was a lot of fun. However, my fondest memories of Coach Mack had absolutely nothing to do with basketball. In 1987 while I was the sports director at Channel 12, Mack and I were among five local celebrities to participate in a rib eating contest at Engel Stadium just before a Lookouts’ game. We had five minutes to eat as many ribs as we could, and put the bones in an aluminum pan. I was fabulous at this kind of thing, (my waist line showed it) and I was comfortably in front. Clark Schaefer, the channel 3 sports guy, was sneaking some of my bones into his pan while I wasn’t looking and he was declared the winner despite cheating like a dog.
Mack McCarthy on the other hand, ate a lot of ribs but he was not at all concerned with winning. He was just enjoying the ribs. When the five minutes were up, he almost cried when they took the remaining ribs away from him.
My other fond remembrance of Coach Mack took place almost ten years later. I had asked Mack to speak to the student body at South Pittsburg High School. I picked him up at his office and drove him to the school, where he did his usual great job. After his speech, we drove another forty-five minutes south to Mud Creek Bar-B-Que near Scottsboro, Alabama. I had been bragging on the food there, and couldn’t wait to expose Coach McCarthy to some southern delicacies he hadn’t tried yet.
We each chowed down on great barbeque and catfish and washed it all down with the best sweet tea in the world. (Mack referred to the tea as “good and syrupy”) We talked about basketball, kids, and life all the way back to Chattanooga.
I know these stories will just add to Mack’s reputation for enjoying great southern food, but the Mack McCarthy I dealt with was always much more than just a fan of a good meal. He was concerned with young people always doing their best. He was also a heck of a good basketball coach, and I will be proud and honored to present him his induction plaque for the Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame.
Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.
His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.
He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.
In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson, TN. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.
To contact Randy: firstname.lastname@example.org