Scott completes his retirement
Prince Edward County High School (PECHS) teacher and coach James Scott said goodbye to coaching basketball in 2018. Now in 2020, he is bidding farewell to his other key roles in the school system to enter full retirement.
Though he stepped away from hoops, Scott has continued teaching health and physical education, which includes driver’s education, and he has also been coaching girls tennis and cross country.
He has now completed 40 years as a Prince Edward County school teacher. He coached in the school system for 38 of those years.
He explained why now was the right time for him to complete his retirement.
“Well, I’m not a teenager anymore, and (in) all sports you need energy, and my energy level was diminishing, and I didn’t want to hurt the program and hurt the kids,” he said. “I said that they’re good kids, they work extremely hard. It was time. It was just one of those things. You can’t do it forever. True, I miss it, but you have to move on. Basically, it was the energy level. I’m 66 years old.”
Scott said he began teaching in Prince Edward as a substitute teacher. He also served as a teacher’s aide. Then he taught industrial art — similar to a shop class — for special needs students before becoming a health and physical education teacher.
His first coaching role came on the gridiron.
“I was assistant (junior varsity) JV coach of football, and then I was the JV coach for basketball,” he said. “And then I got the job as (varsity) head coach.”
PECHS Athletics Director Rodney Kane noted Scott coached the Prince Edward varsity boys basketball team for 34 years and led it to 524 victories and three appearances in the state’s final four.
Scott said he coached girls tennis for 35 years, and he said 2019 was probably his fifth year coaching cross country.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 girls tennis season, but that did not mean he and the girls had not already put in quite a bit of work in preparation for the official spring season.
“We had a couple of camps during the summer, and we had fall tennis,” he said. “It was coming along, and the girls bought into it, and they were ready to play.”
Amid laughter, Scott also proudly announced that he had a brief baseball coaching career during which the varsity Eagles had an unblemished record. He had filled in for their regular head coach at one point during the ’80s.
“The coach had to go to New York,” Scott said. “And he told me, ‘Coach, I want you to coach my team.’ I said, ‘Coach, I can’t do it.’ He said, ‘Yes, you can.’ And we played I think it was Park View or Lunenburg, I’m not sure what the team (was), but we beat that team 5-4. And I said, ‘I’m not going to coach any more baseball. I’m going to end on a good note. I’m undefeated.’ I always tell that story.”
Scott said what he enjoyed most in the classroom, on the court or in the field was seeing student-athletes’ eyes light up like a lightbulb when they were having fun and enjoying themselves. He loved it when he would tell them something, they realized it was true, they enjoyed it and came back the next day with excitement.
“Seeing that they’re motivated and they’re enjoying it, that’s what I really enjoyed,” he said.
Prince Edward County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Johnson described what Scott meant to the school system across the past four decades.
“Coach Scott is an amazing teacher, mentor and role model for all of our students and staff,” she said. “With such an unassuming demeanor, he was a powerhouse behind the scenes. He took care of our young people; he instilled pride in them; he taught them self-love and respect. I will dearly miss him and his influence; however, we know that ‘once an Eagle, always an Eagle,’ and Coach Scott will always fly high with us and care for our children in the community.”
Kane shared similar thoughts about Scott, who could often be spotted filling low-profile but important roles like cleaning up after basketball games or running the concession stand during sporting events.
“I can say James Scott has made a positive difference in every student at Prince Edward,” Kane said. “Everyone saw the Coach Scott on the sideline during a basketball game. What they didn’t see is everything he did behind the scenes to help all of our students succeed. He will be truly missed, but something tells me he will still be making a difference.”
Reflecting on his career, Scott said he had some shoutouts that he wanted to make.
“I want to thank Prince Edward, first of all, the entire system for believing in me and giving me a chance,” he said. “Dr. (James) Anderson, Mr. (Thomas) Mayfield, they gave me my first chance at 23 years of age, and they believed in me.
“And also, I am a Christian,” Scott continued. “I want to thank God for giving me strength to make it through the seasons and schools. And you know how many games I missed for coaching basketball? I missed one, and I didn’t miss because I was sick. I missed because I had to go out of town.”
As Johnson and Kane predicted, Scott will continue to have interactions with people in the community, because the ice cream business that he operates in his spare time, Ice Cream Delight, will still be active.
“I’m still going to run the truck,” he said. “I really enjoy that. They keep me going, they keep me interacting with the community. I’ll be doing different events.”
Those will include sporting events, fireworks, family reunions, and sometimes he will just be giving away ice cream, he said.
He will also continue doing part-time security work for a company out of Richmond. His work there has involved duties like scanning people before they enter events, including games for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, a Minor League Baseball team.
However, Scott noted he will miss the regular interactions with the entire Prince Edward school system, including the superintendent, the principals, the students and the parents.
He recalled something a parent once told him that made him realize something else he will miss.
“They said, ‘Coach, those kids keep you young, they keep you thinking,’” he said. “So I’ve got to get better at that. I’ve got to stay alert. They keep you alert. That’s what I’m going to miss.”
Mark “M.J.” Patterson Jr., now a member of the Randolph College men’s basketball team, was a student and an athlete under Scott’s guidance from 2015-17. He shared what it was like.
“When thinking of Coach Scott, I realized how much of a mentor he was to his students and basketball teams,” Patterson said. “Coach Scott’s leadership in the classroom was displayed by his countless stories of relating any topic to a life lesson.
“His dedication to the basketball program was unmatched,” Patterson continued, “from raising money to allow the teams to play in summer leagues and attend team camps, to picking up and taking players home and even opening the gym at 12 a.m. so the community could play pickup basketball. Coach Scott’s commitment to (Prince Edward County schools) was always displayed and will definitely be missed.”
Amy Deitrich said Scott was her tennis coach from 1988-93. She remembered how he worked with players individually to help them improve their game but also how much they worked together as a team and encouraged each other as a family. He also provided players opportunities to compete at different levels depending on their effort and attitude during practice. “I was able to compete at all six seeds during my time on the team,” she said. “Coach Scott was a coach, a mentor and a friend. He was always encouraging, kind and calm. I am thankful that he waited to retire long enough for my own children to get to know him and work with him as a teacher and coach.”
Deitrich, now a teacher, has spent 16 of her 21 years of teaching at Prince Edward County Middle School.
Amont’e Vaughan attended PECHS from 2011-15 and had Scott as both a teacher and coach, but their shared history stretches back before then.
“I’ve known Coach Scott since I was in elementary school, and I always looked up to him as a father figure, and he took me under his wing from day one,” Vaughan said. “I remember going to all the summer league games, summer camps. He’d take us to his fiancée’s house to cut her grass and do things that fathers will do with their kids. He helped me tremendously with my game from seventh-12th grade. He was always there from good days to bad days, and that’s (how it) was with other students and players as well. James Scott III is legendary.”