By Tim Chambers
Legendary coach Charlie Bayless wanted to make sure that Happy Valley had all the right essentials to keep the basketball program he oversaw for nearly six decades from floating down Sinking Creek. So he passed on the paddles to his successor and former player Chuck Babb on Tuesday afternoon.
Babb becomes the schools first head coach to be named since the 1953-54 season, when Bayless began his 59-year run.
The two-time all conference and honorable mention all-state player graduated from Happy Valley in 1993 and received his AS degree from Walters State in 1995. There he played two seasons before graduating from Milligan College in 1998 with a BA in History.
Babb was a two-time all-conference player for the Buffaloes and was tabbed as runner-up player of the year his senior season.
He holds a Masters of Ministry and recently completed a Doctor of Ministry in Theology from Covington Theological Seminary in 2012.
He spent nine seasons at Happy Valley as an assistant coach for Bayless and three years at Elizabethton as one under Marty Street. He also worked a year for Tony Gordon.
It was a special moment for him on Tuesday to take over at his alma mata on his 37th birthday.
“It’s been a long road and always a dream of mine to come back home,” said Babb. “Sometimes I thought it would never happen, but now I realize that God wanted it this way. I promise you that I won’t take it for granted. This is a very special day for me.”
Babb addressed all the current players that were there in support of him. He spoke to them about their work ethic and character.
“How hard are you willing to work and sacrifice?” asked Babb. “Are you going to show up every day? I expect 110 percent all the time. Most of all I you’ve got to have character. You can win a few games without it sometimes, but to win consistently then you have to sustain it. I want people to know when they come here to play Happy Valley that we’re going to be a tough opponent. We want get this program back to where it once was.”
Babb hopes to do that by bringing back some of the former players that have gave the community some memorable moments.
“I love the tradition here,” added Babb. “I want to bring some of the guys back to help our players understand that it’s about the name on their chest. I used to spend nights in my back yard shooting, pretending to be a Marty Street or Teddy McKeehan off that 1974 state championship team. I’ve spent a lot of time when I was in college talking basketball and visiting with Danny Webster, who some say is the best that’s ever played here.
“Basketball is the front porch of the school for a lot of the community. If it’s a mess, they don’t want to come inside. We want to clean it up and have the best of everything for them.”
Babb took the time to thank a lot of his former college coaches — Tony Wallingford and Bill Carlyle in addition to Marty Street. He also thanked Dr. Shirley Ellis, Dr. Kevin Ward, HV principal Terry Hubbard and AD/assistant principal Bernie Young along with assistant principal Terry Morley in addition to the community and student body.
He singled out his mom and dad as his biggest fans along with his two sisters for always supporting him. He gave a special thanks to his wife, Marcy, and his children for their support and sacrifice. He said that coaching was a blessing and thanked Jesus most of all and foremost for giving him the opportunity. It was his heartfelt thanks to Coach Bayless that caused some wet eyes among those in attendance.
“It wasn’t hard for people to see potential in me when I left here at 6-7, 185 pounds,” he said. “But coach Bayless saw that when I arrived here at 5-7 and 165 pounds. He saw potential in me and worked me out on the side, and I appreciated that. I still say to this day that his press breaking offense is the best one in America.”
Coach Bayless was all smiles about the hire.
“It made me feel good when Chuck went on to play college ball,” said Bayless. “He helped me coach here for nine years. He’s got the experience and knowledge. It’s great to have one of my boys carry on the tradition. I’m going to get behind his back where can’t hear me. We’ll all be here to support him.”
Hubbard noted that Babb was the perfect fit at the right time.
“We feel very good about this hire,” said Hubbard. “Coach Bayless has been my partner through this, and Mr. Babb was his first choice. We’re very pleased to have him back here at Happy Valley as a coach and teacher.”
Added Young: “I’ve known Chuck for years and coached him at the middle school. He was a hard worker then and a good player. If I had a son, I would want him to play for Chuck Babb. He’s a Godly man with character and integrity, but we’re getting a bonus. On top of that, he’s a very good teacher and basketball coach that knows the game. I’m thrilled for him to be able to come back because he’s got something to prove. I know he’s going to do well here.”
Babb has already tabbed Jeremy Maddox as his assistant coach. Maddox played under Babb and spent some time as a coach on the bench with he and Bayless.
“It’s a win-win for me,” said Maddox. “We had talked about this some time ago if he ever got a head coaching job. I looking forward at getting to work with him.”
Babb closed with telling those gathered that he often fantasized about one day coaching at his alma mater.
“It’s like a dream, only this one has come true,” he said. “I want to set the tone with a good work ethic. We’ll be a family for four months out of the year. I want to take what Coach Bayless has done and build it into something that this community can continue to be proud of.”