A week ago on Wednesday was the annual picture day for spring athletes at Clarke County High School.

As I wandered through the halls, past the trophy cases and around to get to the open doors at the back side of the gymnasium, I passed by athletic director Casey Childs’ office.

The door was open, so I peeked in to say hello, but Childs wasn’t alone. Squeezed around on the same side of his desk was head basketball and assistant football coach Brent Emmart. The two had were in the middle of something that looked important (probably related to one program or the other since Childs is the head football coach) so I waved and moved on to snapping headshots of the spring teams.

Little did I know, that would be the last interaction that I’d have with Emmart.

A week later, I like so many others would hear the jaw-dropping news that Emmart had passed suddenly at age 52. It was a stunner because Emmart was such a vibrant man and in such tremendous shape.

But more than the shock of his death, Emmart’s loss is one that the Berryville athletic community is going to feel for a long time.

I don’t claim to know Emmart more than professionally, but you get the feel of the nature of someone when you talk to them moments after the highest of highs or the lowest of lows.

In the days where people love to call attention to themselves, that was the farthest thing from Emmart’s mind.

Emmart was a man of few words even in the best of times and you could tell that speaking with the media wasn’t the thing he enjoyed most about the job. Yet, he was always professional and helpful no matter what had happened in the previous 32 minutes of basketball action and always greeted me with a warm handshake.

For him, it was all about his kids. He’d praise them when they played well and he’d take the blame when they didn’t.

“I’m extremely proud of the guys,” he told me after one win. “It was fun to watch them play that hard. They were rewarded for that tonight.”

Many coaches often aren’t fun being around after a rough evening. And this season, Emmart had every right to be angry after a puzzling loss against Central.

Yet, as always, he was as professional as anyone could be with someone asking questions about why his team struggled.

“It comes down to they executed better than we did, so I’ve got to look at myself,” he said. “It starts with the coach, man. … It’s my job to get them ready to play. It’s not their fault.”

And that’s the kind of thing that resonates with your athletes. They are watching to see how you handle adversity and where the blame is placed. Too few are willing to accept it themselves.

It’s a life lesson that carries on far past the gymnasium or football field. It’s why you see so many former Clarke County athletes praising Emmart on social media right now.

While he won a pair of state titles, you certainly could say this past season was one of the best coaching jobs that Emmart did in his 26 seasons leading the basketball program.

The Eagles, with nearly an entirely new starting lineup, finished tied for first place in the regular season in the topsy-turvy Bull Run District.

And once the season was complete, Emmart got to see his daughter Emily take home a gold medal as part of the Class 2 champion Eagles basketball team. There’s pride there that only a father could know.

Aside from his daughter being a part of it, you know that was a story that Emmart loved, seeing a program go from 1-8 during the COVID-shortened season to state champion two years later.

While it wasn’t his team, it was the perfect resolution to many of the lessons that he had been preaching for so many years.

Emmart never gave up on his teams and never short-changed them with a lack of effort on his part.

That earned respect from his peers, his students and most of all those who suited up in an orange uniform.

Luke Lyman, a former basketball player who is now a freshman pitcher at Division I Morehead State, summed up the feelings of many of Emmart’s players with a Twitter post: “Best coach ever.”

Rest in peace, Brent. You will be missed.

(6) comments


I agree with Doc. The number of healthy athletes has skyrocketed since they are not getting Covid.


Great article Walt and sums up interactions with Brent, the press and his kids to a "T". It has been 16 years since I was his assistant coach during the 2 state championships we won together. There very, very easily could have been a state champitionship the year before in 2005. I will always remember the 4 years working with Brent before I went over the mountain to teach in Loudoun. The thing that made it most difficult to leave Clarke as a teacher and coach was leaving the Boys basketball program and working with Brent. He was a character builder and winner in and out. Brent would not settle for halfway effort and his work ethic and dedicaton were amazing. I had the opportunity to be an assistant coach at my Alma Mater Bluefield college in the 1986-88 seasons for an amazing coach, Mark Blevins during the time Bluefield college was the winningest program in Virginia. I also had the chance to turn around 2 other AAA progrmas in Virginia on the girls side and had many other memories over the years along with a 60 game win streak at the J.V. level at Hylton high school over a 3 year period. Nothing comes even close to the time with Brent and the lessons learned and "family" of the teams those years. Those kids would "run through a wall" for Brent. You became a better person in life when coached by Brent and mental and physical toughness became a character trait of kids he coached.. I will always remember the fun, the practical jokes, The long talks on the bus rides back and the relentless ability to make the kids the best they can be. Just a few weeks ago on the way back to Winchester from my teaching job in Loudoun I had just finished working a tutoring job after school and was headed home. I realized that Clarke County boys had just won the district and was playing Strasburg that night in the District tournament. I had not had the opportunity too often over the years to see Brent and the boys play. I called my wife and told her that I felt that I needed to see this team play and see Brent. We were able to talk before the game for a while and It was great to see him coach again. I am so glad I made that last minute decision to turn off Route 7 despite being exceptionally tired on that drive home. I remember lingering in the gym after that tough loss to Strasburg and waiting just to see Brent after the game. I started to go into the coaches office but decided I would not bother him in his post game talk with other coaches and knew they were already preparing for the next game, the regional against Page County. I remember communicating with Brent in the weeks before that game to see how many career wins he had. He avoided that question and it reminded me of how humble he was about success and how he would not want to give himself credit over his record and successes. This area was all the better for having such an amazing man who touched so may lives. We will miss you Brent Emmart and Love, peace and prayers to your amazing son and daughters. You are a legend to me my friend!

Doc Samson

Amazingly sad that the number of seemingly healthy athletes has skyrocketed since... hmmm, a certain "vax" was mandated. Naturally, the radical Leftist "sCiEnCe" based community couldn't care much less. Death only stirs outrage when it confirms the bias and fits the narrative, amiright?


I agree, Doc. The number of healthy athletes has skyrocketed since they are not in the ICU gasping for air.


So true Bose-Einstein. I lost my atheltic father in law and brother in law when 13 out of 14 people got Covid severely (all age groups) during a get togther before vaccine. They died within a month of each other. And they had a long suffering end of their life on this world. Brother in law was 47 and very active. Father in law was in inredible shape for a 77 year old and could still do 6.5 minute miles running. I do have my reservations about vaccine also causing some issues but we carelessly throw that out there when we know nothing about each individual situation. With operation warp-speed under Trump vaccine was rushed somewhat because we were so desperate. I think for sure there are 2 sides to the coin but many more lives could have for sure at least been extended if we had had a vaccine in place.


What totally in appropriate comment in this moment. Get a life man.

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