Beaufort High School boys basketball coach Bruce Beasley will not return for another season, ending the tenure of the Eagles' second boys basketball coach since integration.
Principal Corey Murphy told Beasley on March 27 the coach's contract would not be renewed. Murphy, in his second year as Beaufort High principal, said he decided on the change after several meetings with athletics director Jerry Linn to evaluate the program.
The 58-year-old Beasley coached the Eagles starting in 1989 after assisting eight years at Beaufort High for his coach, Arnold Mitchell, and coaching two seasons in Jasper County.
"He's been here for well over a generation, and we honor all of his service that he's done for the school," Murphy said. "We just decided to move in a different direction for next year, moving forward."
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Beasley, who had completed his Teacher and Employee Retention Program (TERI) and was employed on a year-to-year basis, said he hoped to finish on his own terms and thought he should have received notice that his performance was under scrutiny. He said the Eagles' 18-6 record his final season -- they lost at Class 4-A champion Wando in the first round -- was comparable to others in Region 8-AAAA and the area.
Beasley finished with a 332-277 record. He expressed "sadness and disappointment" with the decision.
"In no way does this decision reflect the positive impact I've had on the boys basketball program, Beaufort High School and the Beaufort community," he said. "I disagree with Mr. Murphy's evaluation, as there is no explicit and unbiased evidence that suggests a new direction is warranted."
The search has started for the Eagles' third boys basketball coach since Beaufort, Robert Smalls and St. Helena high schools integrated in 1970.
Linn said uncertainty about teaching positions has kept the job off the school district website. He posted the vacancy on websites for the S.C. High School League and S.C. Basketball Coaches Association.
Murphy, who was principal five years at Great Falls, worked there with John Smith, who owns the most boys basketball victories in state history with more than 900. Murphy said he didn't compare Beasley's performance to expectations built at Great Falls.
"But I do know what the potential for a program can be," said Murphy, who plans a search committee including administrators, community members and coaches of feeder programs.
Beasley was an all-state guard his senior season at Beaufort High School. His coaching influences include his father, Jonathan, who coached football and basketball on St. Helena Island, and Mitchell, who died in 2012 and for whom the school's gym is named.
Ridgeland-Hardeeville coach Jeremiah Faber, who has coached against Beasley the past 25 years, said his friend should have directed his exit.
"He's given his heart and soul to the program," Faber said. "As a coach, we cheat God; we cheat our families; we cheat everybody else except our program. We give our program our total being."
Faber and Beasley during summers visited former Burke coach Earl Brown, who won more than 700 games and is in the SCBCA hall of fame. Going to see "the Wizard," they called it, to pick up courage, heart and brains for their basketball players.
Brown coached at Burke 30 years before exiting under similar circumstances as Beasley -- his TERI period ended and administrators removed him as athletics director and basketball coach. Brown said Beasley would bring more than 30 players from all levels to the summer-league games to develop the program and would also compete in Burke's annual holiday tournament, often short-handed with vacation-plagued rosters.
Faber remembers a game when his team was up big on Beasley's squad. Beasley called timeout and a Beaufort High player asked his coach if he was going to draw up a play.
"'I don't have no 25-point play, man,' " Beasley said.
When Faber was going through a tough year, Beasley called to encourage. When Faber had a great year, as he did this past season in reaching the Lower State final for the first time, Beasley called with affirmation, telling Faber his work had paid off and to prepare as he had all season.
"Coaches need other coaches," Faber said.
Former Beaufort High player Gary Gaskins, who now plays at Oklahoma State, remembers Beasley wanting to play an up-tempo style. He said the coach drove he and teammate Devin Taylor to Columbia each weekend to practice for their travel team.
When the low-key Gaskins would dunk in practice, Beasley screamed in his face to try and fire him up. Once, Gaskins screamed back.
Laughter filled the gym.
"He would yell at you if you were not doing something right," Gaskins said Monday. "But at the end of the day, he would talk to you like he was your best friend."
Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.
Resume: Beaufort High School boys basketball coach (1989-2014), Beaufort High assistant coach (1981-89), Ridgeland boys basketball coach (1979-81), all-state basketball player at Beaufort High School (1972-75)
Notable: Father, Jonathan, coached basketball and football on St. Helena; recent former players include Gary Gaskins, an Oklahoma State forward, and Devin Taylor, a defensive end for the NFL's Detroit Lions
What they say
"He always did a great job with the kids, developing them skill-wise, especially his big kids. I've always admired his big kids -- how they handled and shot the ball." -- former Burke coach and athletics director Earl Brown
"I think some of us are called to coach, and some of us are appointed. I think Coach Beasley was called to coach by a higher being. He exemplifies all the tools, knowledge and leadership that all the great coaches have." -- Ridgeland-Hardeeville coach Jeremiah Faber
"Great competition over the years. I wanted to beat him as much as he wanted to beat me. It was intense, but when it was all said and done, I consider Bruce a friend and colleague in the business, and that's what it's all about." -- Battery Creek athletics director and former boys basketball coach John Drafts.
"Hopefully we laid the foundation for players and helped navigate their way on life's journey. The lessons they learned and their participation in the game of basketball hopefully can be transferred to the game of life. We used basketball as a great teaching situation, ... to give their very best in whatever they did." -- Beasley
Former Beaufort High basketball coach Mitchell dies at 78, Nov. 27, 2012: http://bit.ly/1qfvmgq
Beaufort High boys basketball team wins in OT; Beasley gets 300th, Jan. 28, 2012: http://bit.ly/1jVx6vl