One thing I learned at the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on Monday night is that every single inductee, no matter what their sport, owed their success to someone else. That’s the way it is for practically every new inductee each and every year.
This year’s class was perhaps the best ever. It had a heavy dose of UTC, with former men’s basketball coach Mack McCarthy being inducted, along with former Lady Moc and current Tennessee Lady Vols co-head softball coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly also being inducted. They all had something else in common; a true and distinct love for young people.
That was certainly the case for my long-time friend Tommy Layne, who was inducted in the officials’/school administrators’ category. In Tommy’s speech, he thanked his family and spoke of how they are always together on every important holiday. He thanked his lovely wife Sissy,(Whom I have always referred to as the “8th Wonder of the World; mainly because it’s a wonder she ever married Tommy) then he talked about the first four years he coached basketball at Whitwell High School.
It seems his very first season as the Tiger’s head coach was less than successful. They lost their first game without scoring a single field goal from the field, and of course had a losing record the rest of the way. On that first team was a young man named “Ricky”, who played all four years and never had anyone come to see him play. No one; not a single family member would venture out to watch their son play high school basketball at Whitwell.
In Coach Layne’s fourth year as head coach, he spoke to “Ricky” one day after practice and reminded him that the game on Friday night was “Senior Night” and all seniors would be introduced and honored before the game. “You need to tell your daddy he needs to be there and walk out on the court with you when you’re introduced,” Tommy said.
“Ricky” just laughed and said, “He won’t be there coach.”
Coach Layne went to see “Ricky’s” dad, and told him he needed to be there to see his son and walk out with him on Friday night. The dad’s response was profanity-laden as he basically said he wasn’t coming.
A few months later as “Ricky” became the only member of his family to ever graduate from high school, the dad knocked on Coach Layne’s door. He handed Tommy a big bag of fresh pork from a hog he had just slaughtered, and thanked him. He thanked Coach Layne because it was playing basketball that gave his son the push he needed to finish school and get his degree.
That’s why these coaches and administrators do what they do. It’s not about wins and losses unless you’re counting the “Rickys” of the world in your victory column. That’s what is most important.
When Tommy Layne was a young boy he was stuck with the nickname, “Burrhead” because of the hair cut he wore. That nickname has stuck with him all his life and he is affectionately called “Burrhead” now by his scores of friends. I prefer to call him Coach Layne or Tommy. His former players all call him, “Coach.” They call him that out of respect and admiration. A handful of them were on hand Monday night as he was inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Many of them were just like “Ricky”; they wouldn’t have graduated without basketball and Coach Layne. Thanks “Burrhead”. You are a true Hall of Famer.
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. 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