He is retired, but former Williamson High School basketball coach David Hatfield said he certainly does miss coaching.
Hatfield, who won three state championships for the Wolfpack in the 1980s, still attends games from time to time. After all, basketball, and sports in general, was a huge part of his life since his days of growing up near Matewan in the 1960s.
“When something is a part of you for most of your life, you’re going to miss it,” Hatfield said of his coaching career. He has now retired from teaching. He ended his career in Pike County and coaching at Belfry High School.
“It gets to be a routine and you get used to it,” said Hatfield.
Once in a while you see him out at a game, maybe up at Mingo Central, down at Tug Valley or back at Belfry. He enjoys watching basketball.
Long before he was a coach, Hatfield was a standout guard for Matewan High School where he graduated back in 1968. He averaged 25 points per game. He was first coached by Jim Melmige and Jack Elkins and then Joe Clusky during his senior season.
After he graduated he attended Concord College, where he played both basketball and baseball for the Mountain Lions. He had an outstanding career at Concord and was one of the team’s top scorers. He was all WVIAC his senior season and scored over 1,000 points during his college career. His coach at Concord was Ira Blankenship who hailed from Iaeger.
Hatfield grew up at Blackberry City, where he would hitchhike home after practice or a late game. “At that time there may only be one car come by every 20 minutes or so,” Hatfield recalled. “After a while, if nobody came by, we would just start jogging home.”
Hatfield first came to Williamson High School as an assistant coach for the late George Ritchie. He served in that position for three years, before taking over the head coaching position at Williamson Junior High.
He won five straight Mingo County championships while coaching the Cubpack. He was assisted by Greg Smith. Then he moved up to become the head coach and won more state titles than any other coach in the storied history of the Wolfpack.
At one point his Cubpack teams were 52-1 and he ended his junior coaching career with a record of 101-19. He had some great junior high players that went on to play high school at WHS, before he moved up to coach the Wolfpack. Names like Mark Cline, John Mike Phillips, Julius “Boo Boo” Hatcher, Scott Maynard and many others were some of his former players.
He won Class AA state titles in 1986, 1988 and 1989. His record for the Wolfpack was 271 wins and 129 losses for a 68 percent winning percentage.
When asked to name his top players during his WHS tenure, Hatfield was hesitant, because he didn’t want to leave anyone out. Right off the top of his head the first names he mentioned were twins Barry and Gary Baker, Anthony Strother, Chuckie Baker, David Copley and Joe Stafford.
He later rattled off a few more names like Dennis Hannah, Brandon Ball, Michael Hagy, Johnny Milum, Jimmy Chris Whitt and so many others that there is not enough ink to mention them all.
“There were so many good players who contributed in one way or another,” said Hatfield. “I hate to mention players, I know I will miss some of them.”
“You’ve got to have good players, not have any injuries and have a little luck,” Hatfield said about winning so many games. “It’s that way at any level. The best team doesn’t always win.”
“Things have to fall the right way,” the veteran coach said.
He remembered his first Class AA state championship game when his Wolfpack team was behind nine points with 2:09 left against Wheeling Central Catholic.
“Their best ball handler (Dave Wojcick) fouled out. My assistant coach Teddy Kinder looked at me and said we’ve got them now,” Hatfield recalled. WHS fought back and actually took the lead on an old-fashioned 3-point play by David Copley. “It was an inbounds play,” Hatfield said.
Wheeling then tied it up which set up the game winning shot by W.Va. Player of the Year Anthony Strother with two seconds left on the clock. WHS won and Hatfield had his first title.
Hatfield said that during the 1970s and 1980s that there was no better basketball teams around than Williamson, Logan and Northfork.
The former Wolfpack coach talked about how he liked playing a tough schedule. “Playing good competition would get you ready for the tournament,” he added. He recalled playing all of the tough teams in the area and region, but also scheduling teams like Beckley Woodrow Wilson, Lexington Henry Clay, Louisville Male, Wheeling Park and teams from the Charleston area.
His teams beat Beckley 6-of-8 times and owned wins over many of the top teams in Kentucky and West Virginia. Winning got to be commonplace for Wolfpack fans. They probably took it for granted.
Hatfield said the local rivals – games with Belfry, Burch and other schools were always tough because of the natural, homegrown competitiveness.
“We had guys who loved to play and practice,” a modest Hatfield said. “Even on snow days, we would try to get down to the Fieldhouse and practice. It was fun.”
Retirement has given Hatfield more time for another passion, hunting and fishing. But nothing completely replaces being on the hardwood and on the sidelines.
Hatfield will always be remembered for his low-key manner and his fun-loving attitude. But when it came to coaching, he was as competitive as anyone on the sideline. He always had his teams ready to play.
“It was always fun and there are some great memories,” Hatfield concluded. “And I had a blast.”
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)