In the early 1990s, after having coached boys high school basketball teams for almost decade, Lynn Long faced this reality:
His three daughters soon would play on the hardwood in middle school and high school, so, if he continued on, Long likely would miss many of their moments and memories. After all, all the hours spent on scouting, film study, practices and so forth would keep him busy.
Then the thought came to him. Why not coach girls basketball?
“From a parental standpoint, I wanted to be a part of their lives,” Lynn said. “I don’t regret that at all.”
The decision vaulted Lynn’s career, as he helped put Skyline High School girls basketball on the state map before guiding Lebanon, Fair Play and Stoutland teams to successes, all while soaring to nearly 700 career victories. And it is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Lynn with the Class of 2017.
The honor is part of the Basketball Luncheon presented by Mercy, set for 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at the Oasis Hotel & Convention Center in Springfield. (For tickets, call 417-889-3100 & see information below.)
Prior to the 2017-2018 schedule, Lynn owned a record of 693-326. That covered 38 seasons.
His journey included coaching boys and girl teams at Bakersfield, boys only at Crystal City (1985-1989) and Norwood (1989-1994), the Skyline (1994-1999) and Lebanon (1999-2007) girls and Fair Play (2007-2009, 2011-current) and Stoutland (2009-2011) boys.
His 1996 to 1998 Skyline teams all reached state championship games, with the 1996 and 1997 squads winning it all. At Lebanon, his Janessa DeMuth-led girls teams won three district titles in Class 5, with the 2001 and 2003 teams falling in sectionals to Kickapoo’s eventual state championship teams.
His 2008 Fair Play boys team reached the Final Four, and Long guided two other boys teams to the state quarterfinals – 2010 Stoutland and 2013 Fair Play.
In other words, Skyline was Lynn’s springboard into the coaching stratosphere. Previously, the program hadn’t won a conference or district title since 1982. Yet Skyline won 139 victories in his five seasons. The 1995 season ended in a sectional-round loss to eventual state champion Pembroke Hill.
Talent was all around: three-time All-State selections Carrie Long Green (his daughter) and Stacy West and All-Stater Jamie Reynolds along with Kelly Biybee Cheek, Kristy Holland, Sabrina and Aubrey Gibson, Shelly Yates, Alicia Worstoff, Pilar Crawford and Long’s second-oldest daughter, Leah.
“We had no idea Skyline would be that good,” Long said.
A student of the game who counts 200 basketball autobiographies on a basement shelf, Long’s influences stretch far and wide. Overall, he played for or coached under four Missouri Sports Hall of Famers: Arnold Ryan, Arvell Popp, Bill Thomas and Charlie Spoonhour.
He played three seasons for Arnold at Lilbourn High School in southeast Missouri before playing for Popp at Crystal City in 1967. In two seasons at Missouri State University for Thomas and Spoonhour, then an assistant, Long was on the Bears’ 1969 NCAA Division II runner-up team.
“With Coach Ryan, as a kid I can remember listening to him talking to his players and how much work they put in,” Long said. “His advice is stuff I teach even today – work hard and play people better than you.”
Not that he had all this mapped out. Long initially was a businessman, but coaching kept tugging at his heart strings. So he sought out teaching certificates.
“My dad tried to talk me out of it,” Long said. “But then he helped me go back to school.”
At Advance High School, Long assisted Bill Myers before setting off for head coaching jobs. His final Crystal City team was state-ranked. Leon Pendergrass, a superintendent and father of eventual Kickapoo girls coach Jim Pendergrass, brought him to Norwood, where one of Long’s baseball teams reached the state semifinals and where he coached his son, Matt.
Lebanon offered a chance to coach in the state’s largest classification, Class 5, while Fair Play allowed Long to return to coaching boys after his youngest daughter Ali graduated.
It took two eventual NBAers, Scott County Central’s Otto Porter Jr. and Wellston’s Ben McLemore, respectively, to end the seasons of two of Long’s best teams since: the 2008 Fair Play boys (fourth place in Class 1) who were led by All-Staters Daniel Durst and Jordan Sukovaty, and the 2010 Stoutland quarterfinal squad.
Fortunately for Long, he had support of many all these years, especially from wife Susan, assistants such as Kevin Drake, Eric DeRossett, Dale Bean and Charlie Pentecost and talented players.
“I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do and my kids have all been a part of it,” Long said. “That’s what make its special.”
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.