Lawrence steps down as Clarke County girls’ basketball coach

Posted: April 20, 2013

Tim Lawrence

BERRYVILLE — Citing a desire to spend more time with his family, Clarke County girls’ basketball coach Tim Lawrence announced Friday that he has decided to resign from his position after nine years.

The 46-year-old Lawrence made history when he led the Eagles to a 26-4 record and the Group A state title in 2007, which was the first girls’ basketball title in area history.

With a young group that made the Group A, Division 2 semifinals this season, Clarke County appears poised to challenge for another title. But as much as Lawrence loves coaching the Eagles, there’s nothing he’d rather do right now than spend more time with people like his father and his daughter.

“This is a decision I’ve been struggling with for a long time,” said Lawrence, who went 159-77 at Clarke County, including 23-7 this season. “It comes down to the fact that I want to devote more energy to my family.

“I’ve sacrificed time with them for years as I’ve pursued my passion for basketball. I just reached a point where I realized I needed to step back and devote more time to them. My father’s getting up in years, and my daughter Hayley is about to start high school and she’ll be off to college in a few years.”

Lawrence said it was the death of his mother — who Lawrence praised for her courage in battling two bouts with cancer — in 2010 that first made him think about leaving his coaching job.

“It changed my perspective on a lot of things, and made me realize how fleeting time is,” Lawrence said. “As a coach, it can be hard to even have a simple night at home because of practices, games and scouting.

“I’ve enjoyed every second of it, but my family’s important to me.”

Lawrence is the third of the area’s five girls’ basketball coaches to announce their resignation in the last 10 days, joining Millbrook’s Debby Sanders and James Wood’s Rhonda Slider.

Lawrence, who is originally from Galax, came to Clarke County in 1996. He spent one year coaching eighth-grade basketball before coaching JV boys’ basketball at Clarke County for seven seasons.

It didn’t take Lawrence long to achieve great success. The Eagles went 29-1 in his second season, losing to Gate City in the state title game. In his third, Clarke County beat Gate City in the semifinals before topping Floyd County in the championship.

Lawrence said those heights couldn’t have been achieved if not for the work put in by Clarke County’s previous coach, John Rudolph. In Rudolph’s sixth year with the team in 2004, Clarke County made the Region B playoffs for the first time since 1989. The Eagles won just three games in Rudolph’s first year.

“I was very fortunate, because he had rebuilt the program and laid the groundwork,” Lawrence said. “He worked so hard to change the culture and change expectations, so all I had to do was coach.”

Still, he couldn’t have coached much better. Strasburg coach Joel Morgan has coached against Lawrence the majority of his 16-year career at high school. He coached JV boys basketball his first four years against Lawrence and has coached the Rams’ varsity girls’ for each of Lawrence’s nine years with Clarke.

“His teams play hard no matter what, and that’s what I admire,” Morgan said. “All of their kids play hard. You knew he was going to play a lot of kids, they were going to press you, and they were going to come after you.

“Some of his teams weren’t as talented, but he got them to overachieve. Every time, you knew they were going to be tough to beat.”

Clarke County athletic director Casey Childs said Lawrence’s influence on the school can’t be understated.

“He’s had a great impact on our program,” Childs said. “His players were always motivated to work hard. He’s a man of high character and outstanding morals, and he’s someone that you wanted kids to play for.”

Childs said it meant a lot to see the excitement in Lawrence’s eyes when Clarke County beat Stuarts Draft in this year’s Region B, Division 2 semifinals to earn Clarke County’s first state tournament berth since 2007. From there, an Eagles team with just two seniors was able to advance to the state semifinals, where they lost to Central-Wise.

It meant a lot to Lawrence to see this year’s players get that far. But now that’s he resigning, it takes on even more meaning.

For Lawrence, it was important to do the same thing for Clarke County’s next coach that Rudolph did for him, and that was to give that coach something to build with. Led by sophomores Sydney Chrane and Anna Blue Catlett, there’s plenty.

“I didn’t want there to be a rebuilding process,” Lawrence said. “I didn’t want to leave the cupboard bare.”

Clarke County wouldn’t really expect anything less from Lawrence, given how much the school means to him.

“I’ve enjoyed every year, and the players on every team have been special to me, from eighth grade, to JV, and to varsity,” said Lawrence, who did say he might consider coaching again someday. “I’ve had the chance to work with a lot of great people in this community, and they’ve all given me tremendous support.”

Lawrence said he told players today that it is the first time in more than 30 years he won’t be involved in basketball as either a player or coach.

Morgan said that presence will definitely be missed.

“We don’t really contact each other in the offseason, but if we did something special during the season he might call or send a congratulatory note, and I’d try and do the same for him,” Morgan said. “He’s done a lot for Clarke County, and it’s going to be hard looking down the sidelines and not seeing him there.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at  rniedzwiecki@winchesterstar.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1