High School Sports

Thomas Heyward names Roy Pryor head girls basketball coach

Roy Pryor remembers Saluda High School's sales pitch from 34 years ago like it was yesterday.

"They wanted to give me three drivers education classes," Pryor said. "That meant I would be able to take the drivers ed car home with me. That's the way times were back then. South Carolina wasn't paying its teachers -- and, obviously, their coaches -- as much and the schools did what they had to."

Ultimately, Pryor said no, leaving Saluda, where he led the Tigers boys basketball team to two Class 2-A state championships in 1977 and 1978, and took a job in sales with Reader's Digest.

Pryor didn't leave coaching because he wanted to, but because he would be better off financially. But for Pryor, 62, the new Thomas Heyward Academy head girls basketball coach, the financial aspect isn't as important anymore.

"I envisioned I was going to sit on my porch and enjoy life," said the retired Pryor, who has worked with the Thomas Heyward B-team and JV boys teams the past two seasons. "This came up, and I thought I'd really enjoy it. It's something I wanted to try. I didn't have to worry about them paying me a lot. I want to do this."

Rebels athletics director Philip Rhodes announced Pryor's hiring in an email this week.

"We are happy with our selection, and look forward to having him continue with building our program," Rhodes said in the email.

Pryor will try to fill the shoes of Gary Mazzanna, who led Thomas Heyward to a 137-41 record and the 2012 SCISAA Class 2-A state championship in three stints over seven seasons.

Mazzanna actually mentioned the job to Pryor and recommended him to Rhodes.

"He's got a good temperament and a good relationship with the kids," Mazzanna said. "It's a pretty good move."

Mazzanna's advice for Pryor is have patience. It may take some time to get the program where he wants it to be.

"He'll be OK," Mazzanna said. "He's been through it before. It's not his first rodeo."

Pryor understands the challenge that awaits him.

"It's going to be big shoes to fill because he's had a great program going," said Pryor, who will coach the JV and varsity girls. "I'm sure a lot of people want to beat Thomas Heyward now. We've had some good years and a lot of talented players coming through. People will want to pay us back."

Despite two state championships more than 30 years ago, Pryor believes he may actually be a better coach now.

"I realize now that good players make good coaches," Pryor said. "It's not the Xs and Os, It's the Janes and Joes."


Age: 62

Job: Thomas Heyward Academy head girls basketball coach


  • Graduated from Lander.
  • At Saluda High School from 1974 to 1981; As head boys coach, he won the 1976-77 and 1977-78 boys basketball Class 1-A state championships. Coached the state player of the year, Melvin Daniel, who later played at Furman.
  • Coached the boys B-Team (2011) and JV team (2012) at Thomas Heyward Academy.
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