They say a good coach can change a game, but a great coach can change a life.
CityScope® magazine Southern Gentleman® – Legendary Coaches & How They've Changed Lives
They say a good coach can change a game, but a great coach can change a life.
We’ve gathered some of the area’s most influential coaches. While they have had immense success in their coaching careers, they’ve had even more success inspiring and touching lives. They’re coaches who after decades are still sporting a whistle, and they’re coaches who had players clamoring to sing their praises.
“Now that I’ve followed in his footsteps to get into coaching, I think one of the most important things I learned from coach was to never lose sight of why we do what we do,” says Ben Smith, head wrestling coach at Bradley Central High School, of his predecessor, Steve Logsdon. “It’s not about the wins and losses or the accolades. It’s about the relationships you are building with your players and about using those relationships and the sport to build young men into good men, future husbands, fathers, employers, citizens, and so on.”
Like Smith, many of the players in this article decided to go into education and coaching, inspired by the important life lessons from their own former coaches who they hope to emulate. Using their positions as coaches and mentors they seize the ripe opportunity to positively impact future generations of young men. Because to be a truly successful coach, they must first care that they have a winning reason to be coaching, not just a winning season.
“I just hope they remember me as fair, and that I tried to teach them more about life than basketball.”
Inducted into the Baylor Hall of Fame in 2017, coach Austin Clark has an outstanding record of 522-411, qualifying for the state tournament 15 times with six trips to the final four, and two state runner-up finishes. He has been recognized as Coach of the Year six times, including receiving the Scrappy Moore award. Clark has also been named a TSSAA A.F. Bridges Coach of the Year and received the TSSAA Distinguished Service Award. Recognized by the Mayor of Chattanooga for his contributions to the city with an illustrious tenure as Baylor’s Athletic Director, Clark will still be the first to tell you, “It’s not about me. It’s all about the kids.”
“It was never just about basketball. It was life lessons and learning to survive and thrive,” Carter says of Clark’s approach. “He taught me so much discipline and how to handle adversity. He just expected more of us, and as a result, we found more to give.”
“My father got sick when I was young, and he made me promise to go to Baylor for high school. He died the Christmas before my freshman year, and I left my home and my mother to attend Baylor. Coach Clark became like a dad to me. He told my mother if she’d entrust me to him, that he would make me the best player I could be. And that’s what he did.”
“Coach truly cared about his players and students, and treated everyone the same. He drove me home after practice almost every day so I got to spend a lot of time talking to him. He just taught me to be the best person that I could be, and everything he instilled in us transferred to my career in the military,” Smith says of Clark’s impact on him.
“I’ll never forget that when my mom passed away in 2011, he met me at the funeral home. We talked about life, and he emphasized the importance of family. Before he left, he made sure we were all okay. That’s just the kind of man he is.”
“Coach Clark is phenomenal. He empowered me to believe in myself and take on leadership roles,” Readus shares. “I hope to instill in my children and the players that I coach to be great people of character, like coach Clark demands of his players. He taught us that it was more important to be great people than great basketball players and that you achieved that by doing all the little things right.”
“My most distinct memory of coach is a five-hour practice on New Year’s Eve. He kept us until we got it right. He used the opportunity to teach us about commitment, sacrifice, dedication, preparation, mental toughness, and working as a team.” Readus says that the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling wonderfully captures the essence of what coach Clark teaches his players.
above photo (l-r) Allen Carter, Eric L. Smith, Coach Clark, and Terry Readus
“One of my favorite things about coaching is watching a young man
who wants to improve follow the plan and succeed.”
Witty. Genuine. Dedicated. That’s how Stan Corcoran’s former swimmers describe him. In his 26th year at McCallie, he has plenty of accomplishments to be proud of: a seven-year state title streak from 1998 to 2004, state runner-up seven times, 102 All-American swimmers, over 40 swimmers who went on to swim in college, named Tennessee Coach of the Year eight times, and inducted into the Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame.
Meek says that coach Corcoran taught him the importance of preparation. “He showed me how, if you’ve put in the effort to prepare, that there is no need to second guess yourself. That kind of discipline and confidence translates into everyday life.”
“Stan has a real talent for addressing the individual. He believes that not all athletes can be coached in the same manner, and he did a great job of understanding everyone’s best way to be encouraged and motivated. He is one of my all-time favorite people, and I’m so thankful for the lifelong friendship he has given me.”
“Stan’s character is revealed in the way he treats his swimmers and his involvement in the community – he teaches swim lessons to children, coaches at the country club in the summer, and leads McCallie’s program year-round. It’s obvious that he loves what he does and never misses an opportunity to encourage a young swimmer!”
Clark says Corcoran showed him the impact of everyday actions on a large goal. “Stan invested in me, as a person. He cared for me in the ups and downs of high school, college, and is still a friend and mentor to me to this day.”
“Not only did coach Corcoran make individual resting plans for each person on the team, he also filmed their technique for review, and held visualization meetings – this was really before other teams were doing things like this. He always asked each swimmer about school, their family, and how they were doing, and you could tell it was just because he genuinely cared,” Sneed says.
“It is rare to find people who solely dedicate themselves to helping others succeed. Teachers and coaches are very underrated.”
above photo (l-r) Mitchell Meek, David Clark, Coach Corcoran, and Brian Sneed
“Honestly, my football boys are my family, and that’s where I invest most of my time.”
Turner has been named Coach of the Year four times through multiple organizations, both locally and regionally, including honors such as Coach of the Year from the Best of Preps and the prestigious Scrappy Moore award. He has taken Tyner to the state championship three times, winning once, and finishing as runner-up twice. Turner has an outstanding overall record of 230-95, and Tyner even named their football field after him. His devotion to his players and his fair and honest practices have kept him at the top of the game for decades.
Jones credits Turner with encouraging him to pursue his path into teaching and coaching, plus helping him navigate his high school days. “Coach T didn’t just influence my life, he saved it! He had a special way of keeping my emotions in check and teaching me to channel them through sports,” Jones shares.
Although he jokingly says he’ll never forget Turner’s trademarked outfit of tall white socks, shorts, and a black Georgia T-shirt, in seriousness, Jones says, “Coach T is one of the greatest men I have ever known. No one besides my dad has had the positive impact on my life that coach T has.”
“Coach T is a man of his word and a man of integrity. If he says he’s going to do something or asks something of his players, he’s going to do exactly that,” says Buttram. “He walks the walk. That consistency builds a trust and a rapport with his players.”
“Coach has impacted my life in so many ways, even allowing me to coach and help other young men. I grew up without a father in the household, but T always treated me like his own son; he showed me through example how to be a young man and be an adult. He doesn’t express himself often, but he does love his kids. And occasionally you might get him to tell you that.”
“Coach T treats everyone the same, and he treats everyone with respect,” Battle says. “He is driven, strong-willed, and meticulously organized (if you move a pencil on his desk, he’ll know). He’s a stern disciplinarian with high expectations, but he is also compassionate and fair. His compassion and genuine love of his players is what builds trust and gets the guys to buy in.”
Battle says Turner supported his passion for working with young people and that coaching with Turner has taught him ways to be an innovative leader and mentor. “He taught me that each child is unique and might require different approaches. He is always accessible, always has an open ear, and is always honest.”
above photo (l-r) Gerald Jones, Jackie Buttram, Coach Turner, and Thomas Battle
“I hope that they remember me as a coach who tried to lead by example.”
Motivated. Disciplined. Legendary. In the world of high school wrestling, coach Logsdon’s reputation precedes him. Logsdon has an unbelievable record of 382-26, 20 team state championships, and 52 individual state championships. He has coached 14 All-Americans and seven winners of the state tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler in the State of Tennessee award, and he is a three-time Scrappy Moore award recipient.
Nothing happens by accident in coach Logsdon’s world, according to Floyd. “The most important thing I learned from him was preparation. He taught us how to be more prepared than the other team, and we never saw anything in a match that we hadn’t prepared for.”
Floyd, who is now the head football coach at Bradley Central, grew up watching Logsdon carry his daily task list around in his pocket, checking off tasks as they were accomplished. “I got that from him. It helped me get through college, and I still do it to this day. The only thing I’ve updated is that I now keep my list on my phone.”
“Coach is one of the most motivated people I have ever met. The best advice he ever gave me was, ‘It’s possible!’ He really made me believe in what I could achieve, and 22 years later my confidence to get things done is still unwavering. No goal is unattainable!”
According to Eslinger, the head wrestling coach at UTC, a great example of Logsdon’s dedication to his wrestlers was each time he handed them notes after a match. “Coach has consistency and vision. His attention to detail is so impressive, and he always knew exactly where he was taking us as a team. I believe, personally, he really pushed me past what I thought I was capable of, and collectively, he pushed us all to do big things.”
“Good days and great days – there are no bad days!” Smith remembers his predecessor saying often. Logsdon’s positivity was one of the most influential qualities to Smith, who is now the head wrestling coach at Bradley Central.
“I have a ton of great memories of coach, but the ones that stick out the most are the hand-written, ‘Congratulations!’; ‘Keep your head up!’; and ‘I’m proud of you’ notes; the one-on-one conversations; and every time he went out of his way to show you that he genuinely cares. The simple, small things that no one ever sees – those speak volumes about coach Logsdon.”
above photo (l-r) Damon Floyd, Heath Eslinger, Coach Logsdon, and Ben Smith
“Sports are the great equalizer, and boys need a crew with a cause. So put them together and give them a group of other people that are counting on them. That’s how you motivate young men.”
Coach Kemp has an overall record of 292-101, has coached eight state championship teams, five state runner-up teams, has been awarded Coach of the Year three times by the Tennessee Scholastic Lacrosse Association, and has touched the lives of countless players. Kemp’s passion for helping others was born from his own childhood role models, and his unmatched ability to relate and motivate has led him even further down the path of working with young men.
“Coach has a natural talent for relating to his players, to anyone really. He’s just very adept at reading people, and communicating with them in an effective way,” says Ayers.
Ayers, who lost his father while playing for Kemp, spoke about how coach helped him focus on mental toughness and overcoming adversity. During his senior year, Kemp became much more than a coach to him. “He really let me lean on him during that time and helped show me how to find the good, even in bad situations. He went from being just my coach to a father figure.”
Brakebill says he wasn’t the most gifted athlete early on, but that through coach Kemp’s persistent mantra of, “Never let anyone outwork you!” he was motivated to push the envelope. “Honestly I would not be where I am today if not for him. Coach Kemp always believed in me and knew that I was capable of great things, long before I ever realized it,” Brakebill says.
“Because of him, I spent more time practicing, I ran and lifted extra, and was constantly watching film. Those of us who did what he encouraged us to do were much better for it. Back then I always thought it was about winning or going on to play Division I lacrosse. But it wasn’t. He pushed us because it was really about being a good person, and doing our best at whatever task is placed before you.”
Cupo describes coach Kemp as “relentless” because of his never-quit attitude and seemingly bottomless reserve of motivation. One of Kemp’s most-used phrases according to Cupo is, “C’mon man!” constantly pushing for more.
“Coach has an unmatched ability to relate, to motivate, and to put people in their best position to succeed,” he says. Cupo says while Kemp was an outstanding strategic coach, his most distinctive memories of him are not necessarily from the game field or even the classroom. “The memories that stand out the most to me are definitely all of the creative (and sometimes ridiculous) ways he attempted to motivate us!” Cupo laughs.
above photo (l-r) Corey Ayers, Coach Kemp, Clint Brakebill, and Tom Cupo
“My goal is to make sure they know that I really cared, that I intentionally invested in them.”
With an impressive record of 430-279 as head coach, Garland coached baseball at Soddy Daisy and East Ridge high schools before arriving at East Hamilton in 2009. He has taken his team to the TSSAA State Tournament twice and to TSSAA Sectionals four times. His teams have won 12 district regular season or tournament titles and one regional championship. He has coached at least 45 players that went on to play at the collegiate level and three who went on to play professionally. Garland has been named Coach of the Year in high school baseball 12 times, including at the district, regional, and sectional levels, as well as through the Chattanooga area’s Best of Preps awards.
“Coach is passionate about what he does. He always leads by example, and he didn’t ask anything of us that he didn’t expect of himself. He was patient – I’m sure I tested his patience plenty, but he was great with me,” Williams laughs.
“Although I didn’t realize it at the time, coach was helping me lay the foundation for everything to come in my future – college and career. So not only is he a brilliant baseball mind, but he is also able to lead young men in the right direction on and off the field. With the values he taught me, I have achieved success in my life outside of sports, and I can never thank him enough for that.”
“His first year at Soddy was my freshman year. So I got to know him as a young head coach. He was very intense and had immense expectations for himself. His focus, preparation, and attention to detail were just part of the example he set. He also taught us to be ethical, even when no one was watching. He approached things with such a passion that you couldn’t help but follow suit,” explains Furrow.
For Furrow, that drive to focus on the little things has helped set him apart in his career as a lawyer. “Coach always told us that if we ‘would focus on the little things, it would set us apart from our competition,’ and I try to apply that to my life and my job.”
“I remember after one particularly disappointing loss, I headed to the field house to put some equipment up and saw coach running poles in the rain. It just showed me how personally and deeply he took every loss, and that he always felt it was on him if the players didn’t get it done. He’s a very genuine guy,” says Hensley, who succeeded Garland as Soddy Daisy’s head baseball coach and also serves as the assistant principal and athletic director.
“I originally wanted to go into law enforcement, but coach completely changed my outlook toward teaching and coaching and helped me realize what I really wanted to do. He believed in me and gave me an opportunity as just a 20-year-old college kid. There is no way I would be in the position I am in today without coach Garland.”
above photo (l-r) Hayden Williams, Coach Garland, Justin Furrow, and Jared Hensley