NARROWS, Va. — The coronavirus pandemic continues to sideline all high school athletic activity across the Commonwealth. That hasn’t kept the Narrows High School Athletic Department from generating buzzworthy high school sports news.
On Tuesday, Narrows Athletic Director Kelly Lowe confirmed the hiring of former Pulaski County High School coach Bradley Sutphin as the new varsity girls basketball head coach for the Lady Wave.
The program was under the stewardship of former assistant Byron Brown for part of last season after head coach McCreery Mann had to step back for health reasons.
Sutphin has been head girls basketball coach at Pulaski County for the past four seasons, having led the Lady Cougars to the VHSL Class 4 state tournament over the last two — including a state finals appearance in 2018-19. Pulaski County finished 21-7 this past season, which included a Region 4D title and ended in a state quarterfinal loss to Millbrook.
Obviously, hiring one of the New River Valley’s most promising young coaches looks to be quite a catch for Class 1 Narrows, which competes in the Pioneer District.
“Well, I don’t know about any of that. But I hope I can live up to it,” said Sutphin, who made his first visit to Narrows High School as head coach on Tuesday.
Lowe, who interviewed three finalists for the job opening, has confidence that Sutphin will thrive in his new environs.
“He wanted to be a part of this community and it’s a good thing. We’re fortunate to have him. He’s had some real successful teams at Pulaski County the last couple of years and we’re looking for good things,” said Lowe, who in recent years has presided over an all-around elevation of the school’s culture of boys and girls athletics.
Sutphin has resided in the Town of Narrows for the last five years while commuting to his job in Pulaski County. He knows how much the town loves its athletics and looks forward to his new role in the community.
His final game of the 2020 postseason for Pulaski County was mere days before the VHSL pulled the plug on state tournament play due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has made for a strange and bittersweet transition to his new basketball home.
“We lost in the (VHSL) state quarterfinals. They played the state semifinals on Tuesday and everything was cancelled on Thursday. It’s been crazy. It’s been weird, “ said Sutphin, who said he was heartbroken that the coronavirus pandemic restrictions required him to say farewell to his Lady Cougars players via internet connection. “Having to tell them over a computer as opposed to in person ... they’ve meant a lot to me and our program. That was really, really tough.”
Now that he’s taking the reins at Narrows, he’ll be making telephone calls to all the Lady Wave returning players this week. He’s in the process of figuring out how to set up some sort of remote internet conferences so they can hold team meetings while maintaining social distancing.
Sutphin’s family moved to Narrows when his wife, Sarah, obtained a job teaching at Narrows Elementary School. Sutphin is a native of Wythe County, but he incidentally married into a prominent Narrows coaching dynasty.
His wife is the granddaughter of the late William B. Patteson, Jr., after whom the school’s gymnasium is named. His wife’s uncle, Brian Patteson, is a successful former girls basketball coach for the Lady Wave. Sutphin’s brother-in-law, Patrick Bailey, led the 2019-20 Green Wave boys basketball program to an 18-7 record — a possible program-high mark — and a Pioneer District tournament championship that marked the Narrows boys’ first tournament crown since 1995.
Sutphin hasn’t had the opportunity to evaluate his returning players yet. He hopes his new team will hit the floor running.
“I love the uptempo game. You can put a lot of pressure on some people. There have been times in the past I’ve found that if you’ve got deficiencies you can kind of cover those things up if you can play the fast tempo. But really everything is going to be based on personnel ... what kids can do and what kids can’t do. I’m not opposed to playing in the half-court if we have to,” said Sutphin, who favors man-to-man defense but will make whatever adjustments it takes to beat a given opponent.
Sutphin’s recent state tournament background is apt to energize Green Wave basketball fans, who look forward to seeing the Lady Wave regain the kind of notoriety it enjoyed when Maggie Guynn, now a Division II player at Concord University, was breaking regional scoring records.
The former Lady Cougars coach cautioned that success in VHSL basketball is anything but automatic.
“We’ve been very fortunate (at Pulaski County). We had some great kids. We just really turned the corner and made a run with a lot of young kids and a lot of inexperienced kids. We just got hot at the right time and won some big ballgames and were fortunate enough to play in a state championship. Not a lot of teams get to do it. It’s tough to get there and it was a really tough road to get there,” Sutphin said.
In spite of his bigger-school Class 4 credentials, Sutphin should prove a good fit for Class 1 Narrows, where most gifted athletes play multiple sports over the school year. At Pulaski County, he encouraged his basketball players to participate in spring sports, like softball.
He looks forward to meeting his new players in person at the first opportunity. He got a chance to see a little bit of the team while attending a few games with his oldest son, who goes to school in Narrows, but he admitted that he wasn’t exactly scouting the squad during those visits.
“I’m hoping to meet them real soon. I’m excited. It’s been really tough today, especially knowing that I was coming over here today after talking to those (Pulaski) kids yesterday. That’s just how it is sometimes as a coach,” Sutphin said.
“I’m sure the kids here are interested in getting to know me. My family has been here for years and that’s fortunate for me. Hopefully everything goes really smoothly.”
Narrows finished 9-15 overall, 7-5 in Pioneer District play last season.
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