Brent Emmart headshot

Brent Emmart

Longtime Clarke County High School head boys’ basketball coach Brent Emmart died suddenly due to a medical emergency sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday, school director of athletics Casey Childs said on Wednesday afternoon.

Emmart turned 52 in February. Childs said Wednesday that as far as anyone at Clarke County knew, Emmart did not have an illness at the time of his death.

“It’s been a heartbreaking and surreal day for everybody here at Clarke County,” Childs said. “Coaches, staff, and of course, kids. He was his normal self [Tuesday]. You know how [all the coaches here] are with Coach Emmart. We always joke and pick on each other, and we were still doing those sort of things all day [Tuesday].”

Childs canceled all of Clarke County’s athletic activities on Wednesday out of respect for Emmart and all the people who cared about him.

Childs is particularly heartbroken for Emmart’s children, each of whom is either a former or current Clarke County athlete. Ethan Emmart starred in basketball and baseball before graduating in 2012. Emily is a junior who helped the girls’ basketball team win the Class 2 state title on Saturday in Richmond, which her father attended. Jillian is a freshman who played JV volleyball this year.

Brent Emmart was the head varsity basketball coach for 26 years, winning nearly 400 career games and guiding the Eagles to the program’s only two state championships in 2006 and 2007 in Group A. Those were the final two years of the three-classification system for Virginia High School League basketball. The 2006 championship was the first basketball state title for boys or girls among the five high schools in The Winchester Star coverage area.

Known for his intensity and loud voice while instructing his players during games, Emmart coached teams that also won eight Bull Run District regular-season titles, five district tournament titles and one region title. This year’s Clarke County team won a share of the district regular-season title for the first time since 2011 and went 17-9 for its most wins since that 2010-11 season.

Emmart was also a football assistant coach for 27 years and has been a teacher in Clarke County’s physical education and health department throughout his involvement with Eagles athletics. This year, he taught ninth-grade P.E. and health and also weight training.

Emmart graduated from Hampshire High School in West Virginia in 1989, earning All-State honors in basketball as a shooting guard. He attended college in West Virginia as well, playing two years of basketball at Glenville State College before suffering a knee injury that ended his career. Emmart then transferred to Shepherd University and graduated with a degree in education.

Emmart was a decorated coach who was inducted into Clarke County's Hall of Fame in 2010. But the first thing that Emmart will be remembered for is who he was as a person.

Childs — a 1993 Clarke County graduate — started his coaching and teaching career in 1997-98 at Clarke County. Childs and Emmart coached freshman football together in the fall of 1997, part of a two-year stint that Childs had at Clarke County before returning in 2007. Ever since, Childs and Emmart have been working together as football coaches, and Childs has been helping the basketball program as athletic director since 2008.

“I’ve known him for 27 years now, and not only was he a great football coach and great basketball coach, he was a great friend,” Childs said. “He’s going to be sorely missed by everybody here at Clarke County High School. The impact that he had on the staff and the players over those entire years is going to be greatly missed.”

Childs said Emmart was willing to do anything for Clarke County athletics. Emmart would do things like oversee open gyms at 6 a.m., do the announcements and scoreboard operating for soccer games, and has coached teams he’s not involved with in a pinch when someone couldn’t be at a game.

“There’s nothing he would not do for Clarke County and the kids in this community,” Childs said. “So many kids that we’ve had over the years that he’s coached in either football or basketball have reached out to me.”

Chandler Rhoads is among the countless athletes who have seen Emmart’s unsurpassed dedication.

A 2008 Clarke County graduate, Rhoads starred in football and basketball. He earned First Team All-State honors in both 2007 and 2008 (Group A Player of the Year as a senior). Rhoads scored 27 points and the game-winning three-point play to lift the Eagles to a 51-49 win in the state title game in 2006 as a sophomore against Twin Valley to complete a 27-3 season, with the team scoring the last seven points to win. The 2007 team went 26-4 and beat Gate City 60-55 in the title game, scoring the last 13 points to win.

Rhoads — who went on to a decorated career at NCAA Division I New Hampshire — is now the head football coach at Madison High School in Idaho.

“He was an awesome person as well as an amazing competitor,” Rhoads said. “Us as players just fed off that. When you have a competitive leader, you have no choice but to be competitive yourself. He just brought the best out of all us as players and as people.

“He was like a father to me growing up. I spent more time with him than I did my own family. He’d meet me at the gym at 5 a.m., meet me in the weight room at 11 at night. He was always there for me whenever I needed him.”

Rhoads said Emmart’s influence played a big role in making him the man he is now, and that influence extends to the way Rhoads coaches. Rhoads continued to talk to Emmart over the years and said Emmart became his best friend.

“There’s many lessons I’ve learned from him on just how to treat kids, the time that goes in, and just the willingness to do whatever it takes, because you never know the impact you can have on their life,” Rhoads said. “I know he’s impacted so many lives.”

John Rudolph is one of them. Rudolph served as Clarke County’s girls’ varsity head basketball coach from 1998-99 to 2003-04 and also taught at the high school. And before girls’ basketball switched from a fall sport to a winter sport, Rudolph coached in Emmart’s boys’ program for two years.

The duo — who both share a love for practical jokes — became best friends during that time. Emmart was part of Rudolph’s wedding party in 2000. Rudolph, whose nephew Jake was an assistant coach on Emmart’s staff this past season, is now a pastor and also coaches basketball at Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown, Pa.

“He was just unbelievably driven from the early-get go,” said Rudolph, who added that the boys’ program was in a down period before Emmart arrived. “There was no way you were going to outwork him. We were just eliminated from the state tournament. Somebody joked, ‘It’s time to start open gyms again.’ Literally, Brent did that. I remember being eliminated from the Bull Run District tournament early one year, and he met guys in the gym the next morning at 6 a.m.

“That’s just who he was. He was just so dedicated and driven, and wanted to win and wanted the boys to be at their best. I admired that greatly. And at the same time, he was a terrific teacher. He worked just as hard at that as being a coach. He was extremely loyal to the school and had a huge heart.”

Basketball has delivered a lot of joyful moments for Emmart, and everyone involved with Clarke County athletics knows just how special the final game he attended was to him.

Clarke County held its winter awards ceremony on Tuesday night. It gave Emmart a chance to express how much pride he had in his own team, but also for Emily and the rest of the girls’ team for how they performed in beating defending state champion Central (Wise County) 45-41 in Saturday’s Class 2 championship game at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“He said he’d never cheered harder in a basketball game that he wasn’t coaching in than he did on Saturday,” Childs said. “He was up screaming and hollering, and so happy and proud of what Coach [Regina] Downing and the girls were able to accomplish this past weekend.”

That caring final memory of Emmart couldn’t have been more fitting for those who knew him best.

“I don’t think there’s enough print to express everything I feel for him,” said Chris Parker, Clarke County’s head football coach from 2000 to 2019. “On the football staff, we were like brothers. He gave 110 percent with football and basketball and he wouldn’t hesitate to help me or anyone who needed help.

“We were together through thick and thin, and those years with him were golden. He’s a hard-working, loyal man. My heart breaks not only for his passing, but also for his family, and all of Clarke County.”

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at

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(5) comments


Someone close to the family please set up a Go Fund Me and publish here and on social media. I'm certain our community will step up to aid the family during this difficult time and provide some support for the family's future.


So sad. He was such an asset to the Clarke program. He will be missed.


Another good one gone. Prayers to his family and his Eagle family.


RIP. [sad] We've lost a good one.


Kudos to The Winchester Star for the immediacy and personalized detail with which you captured the life of someone whose effect on those who loved them will be felt for their lifetime, as is the nature of a coach / coworker / friend / father. Prayers for all of those who were gifted by his presence and will struggle with his absence.

Welcome to the discussion.

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