published Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Robert High not getting farewell year at Brainerd High School

Brainerd head  coach Robert High watches his team warm up in this 2011 photo.  High was fired Friday as the coach of the Panthers.
Brainerd head coach Robert High watches his team warm up in this 2011 photo. High was fired Friday as the coach of the Panthers.
Photo by Dan Henry.
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Robert High career highlights

Seasons as Brainerd's coach: 37

Overall record: 1,001-307

State championships: 1984, 1988, 1992 (Class AAA)

Runners-up: 1995, 1997

State tournament appearances: 14 (18-11 tournament record)

District championships: 20

Region championships: 13

All-state players: 28

All American players: 12

20-win seasons: 31

30-win seasons: 8

One of the most accomplished coaching careers in Chattanooga sports history came to a sudden end Friday morning when Robert High was told he no longer would be in charge of boys' basketball at Brainerd High School.

School principal Uras Agee informed High of his decision during a morning meeting.

"I was hurt, to be honest," High said. "Several months ago I had requested a meeting with the principal to explain my intention to coach one more year and then retire because I wanted them to have time to get a plan in place to find a new coach. I didn't get that meeting until today, and he wasn't interested in me staying for another season."

Calls to Agee for comment were not returned.

High retired from teaching in 2006 but continued coaching under a TSSAA rule that allows retired teachers to do so. Several other area schools also have coaches who are retired from teaching but continue to work as coaches.

"The principal told me he wants all his coaches to be in the building," High said. "I tried to explain that I've been in that building about every day, even before and after the basketball season. I think there were maybe one or two days that I wasn't there by noon and stayed the rest of the day.

"What bothers me most is I've dedicated my career and a lot of my life to the school, and I just wanted to be able to go out on my own terms. I wasn't given that chance. I hate that I wasn't even allowed to tell my players or get the news out myself. The kids found out by word of mouth before I could even reach them. Just the way it was handled is what upset me most."

The 69-year-old High coached the Panthers for 37 seasons, compiling an overall record of 1,001-307 with three Class AAA state championships and two runner-up finishes. His teams won at least 20 games 31 times, with 20 district championships, 13 region titles and 14 appearances in the state tournament. He coached 28 all-state players and 12 All-Americans, served as the school's athletic director for 15 years and won a cross country state title.

He is one of only 13 prep basketball coaches nationally with more than 1,000 wins and is tied with former Memphis University School coach Jerry Peters for the second-most wins in state history, 20 behind all-time leader Walter "Buck" VanHuss of Dobyns-Bennett.

"I'm in shock, to be honest," TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress said. "What a great role model for so many kids for so many years and for countless coaches as well. We've used Robert in many of our coaching conferences to talk to young coaches and educate them. He's the example we use across the entire state as the person they should try to emulate in every way within their own program.

"If that's the direction they want to go at Brainerd, they won't find anyone better for their school, the basketball program or that community."

High's dismissal is the latest in a run of coaching changes at Brainerd that included football coach Stanley Jackson and longtime track coach Mary Sparn being let go. Legendary girls' basketball coach Carolyn Jackson retired after last season. Brainerd's gym bears her and High's names.

"I'm at a loss for words," said former Panthers All-America guard Jay Price, who coaches both men's and women's basketball at Chattanooga State. "A guy with his history, who has meant so much to so many kids and is still in good health and sharp mentally, I can't believe the timing. Robert and Carolyn have been such positive role models, and now neither of them will be there. It's hard to imagine."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293.

about Stephen Hargis...

Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...

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