Surrounded by empty seats of Missouri State University’s iconic McDonald Arena, with the mid-afternoon sun pouring through the glass windows, you could find a student sitting quietly and taking mental notes.
Terry Writer didn’t want to be anywhere else. Not with basketball practices down on the hardwood, with coaches Bill Thomas and a young Charlie Spoonhour unknowingly inspiring a country boy from Cassville.
“That’s where I got my basketball thought process,” Writer said. “I was a P.E. major and knew that’s what I wanted to do. It was an opportunity to see good coaches at work.”
Writer went on to carve out quite a life in the game himself, compiling a 751-316 record in his first 37 seasons, and it’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Writer with the Class of 2017.
In fact, Writer will bestowed the honor during the Basketball Luncheon presented by Mercy, set for 11 a.m. on Wednesday, December 13 at the Oasis Hotel & Convention Center in Springfield. (For tickets, call 417-889-3100 & see information below.)
Those totals are expected to increase. As the curtain rose on a new basketball season in November 2017, Writer was beginning his 15th season at Mansfield High School. There he is 248-129, including a memorable 2007 season that reached the Class 3 state finals.
Overall, it’s been quite a career for Writer, a 1966 graduate of Blue Eye High School who played baseball at Crowder College before finishing his degree at Missouri State, where his classroom was McDonald Arena.
“I loved sports. I was an OK player. But I loved to compete,” Writer said. “So when you can’t play anymore, coaching is the next thing. And I didn’t think I wanted to referee.”
Writer began coaching in the fall of 1971. He had stops at Norwood, Wheaton and Clever high schools in his first 11 seasons before spending 10 seasons at Ozark High School, where he also was the athletic director for nine years. After one season at New Covenant Academy, Writer then took over at Mansfield in the fall of 2003.
Three of his teams – 1978 Wheaton girls, 1984 Ozark boys and 2007 Mansfield boys – were state runners-up. Overall, his teams won 10 district titles, 37 invitational and conference tournaments and 15 regular-season conference crowns. Twenty players made All-State.
Eighteen of his teams won at least 20 games.
“Norwood was a great place to start. It was a small school and a great fit for me,” said Writer, whose first team included Doug Jones, later the great Mansfield baseball coach who was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2016. (Jones passed away in January 2017.)
Because Writer juggled numerous tasks by coaching other sports, Norwood and Wheaton allowed Writer to shape his coaching style. He coached boys and girls basketball at Wheaton, which produced Gail Beck, later a Lady Bears standout.
Both jobs set him up well at Clever from 1979 to 1982. His final three teams won 25, 26 and 27 games and twice beat Ozark in the tradition-rich Blue and Gold Tournament.
Soon, Writer was coaching the Ozark Tigers beginning in 1983. In his second season, a team featuring Brent Hanks and Henry Detherow led a 28-win Ozark club to the 1984, Class 3 state championship game. That team won its first 10 games before suffering a loss to eventual Class 4 state champion Hillcrest in the Blue & Gold Tournament.
Between 1983 and 2001 at Ozark, Writer was 202-76, winning six Central Ozark Conference titles. His 1986 team was ranked No. 1 in Class 3 at one point.
Frankly, Writer wasn’t stubborn. For every team, he changed his offenses and defenses to fit the roster.
“It seemed like everywhere I went I went into a situation where there was talent,” Writer said. “Clever was a good stepping stone for me, and I’ve always been grateful for the people and opportunity they provided.”
Writer credits many for his success. Support from Alice, his wife of 47 years, and children, Jennifer Metcalf and son Derek, made basketball’s long seasons all the more enjoyable.
Plus, his teams were competitive thanks to assistant coaches Jim LaSalle, Mark Wheeler, Phil Montgomery, Frank Gallant, Joe Melton, Adam Cook, Ryan Waters and Cody Shelton.
Writer also will never forget supportive administrators such as Dick Bartow, Dan Evans, Scott Mills, Nate Moore and Randy Short.
In 2003, Writer retired and was inducted into the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association. However, when his former player, Jones, asked if he knew of anyone who would coach Mansfield basketball, Writer floated his own name.
After all, the basketball gym has always been home.
“I’ve just been fortunate,” Writer said, “to be in the right spot at the right time with the right people.”
Basketball Tipoff Luncheon presented by Mercy
When: 11 a.m. on Wednesday, December 13
Where: Oasis Hotel & Convention Center, Springfield
Inductees: Former University of Missouri standout Doug Smith, longtime high school basketball coaches Terry Writer and Lynn Long, the Kickapoo High School Girls Basketball Program
Filbert Five men’s team: Wesley Culver (Hartville High School/College of the Ozarks), David Coutchie (Seymour High School/Southwest Baptist University), Brad Gregory (Montgomery County High School/Drury University), Gary “Cat” Johnson (Joplin Memorial High School/Oral Roberts/New Jersey Nets) and J.J. Tauai (Verona High School/Bradley University/Lithuania Basketball League/Baltic League).
Filbert Five women’s team: Katie Howard Clopton (Reeds Spring High School/College of the Ozarks), Marsha Burton High (Marionville High School/Missouri State University/Evangel University), Trish Van Diggelen Marsh (Marshfield High School/Missouri S&T), Kiana Bock Miller (Stockton High School/Drury University) and Jamesia Price (Blue Springs High School/St. Louis University).
Tables & Tickets: Sponsorship tables of eight are $400, and include an autographed print of inductees as well as special recognition in the printed program. Individual tickets are $40, and a head table ticket is $100. Numerous sponsorships, including congratulatory ads, are available.
Call the Hall of Fame: 417-889-3100.