Coach Lamar Rogers
It’s the whistle. Still the whistle. Honestly, always has been.
Through 46 seasons, almost 1,300 career wins, and every conceivable accomplishment in the sport, Lamar Rogers doesn’t scream nor yell; doesn’t stomp his feet.
He commands attention with pursed lips and a piercing whistle. The one that still makes former players in tiny Clarkrange High School’s gym whip around to find their former coach.
“I think the most interesting thing about Coach Rogers, when people have asked what’s that one thing, it’s just that silent respect,” said Shawn Monday-Smith, a three-time Class A Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association champion under Rogers in the 1980s. “He’s not loud, he’s not over the top. He does have a keen whistle. To this day, if he does that whistle, I still look at him. Like I’m still playing basketball for him. Just his ability to be such a great coach in his style and presence. He commanded respect, but he didn’t tell you that. You just felt you needed to respect him.
Soon, everyone who follows high school athletics throughout the United States will know about Rogers – though they should already. The state of Tennessee’s all-time winningest girls’ basketball coach and 46-year-veteran leader of the Clarkrange Lady Buffaloes basketball program is set for induction into the National High School Hall of Fame on July 1.
Rogers, who was inducted into the TSSAA Hall of Fame in 2009, is in line to become the 13th inductee and sixth coach from the state of Tennessee in the 40 years since the Hall’s 1982 founding. Previous Tennessee inductees include Rick Insell, Catherine Neely, the late Jim Smiddy, the late Buck Van Huss, and the late Boyce Smith, all coaches. The late Bill Pack was inducted into the Hall of Fame as an official, as well as the late Billy Schrivner of Jackson and the late Ralph Stout from Mountain City. Ronnie Carter, former Executive Director of TSSAA, was inducted as an administrator. Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, Nikki McCray-Penson, and Steve Spurrier have all been inducted as athletes from Tennessee.
“I’m just very humbled by everything, it’s unbelievable,” Rogers said. “My wife, Karen, has helped me do it, of course.
“And our community always supported basketball up here. We’re a small community, but I remember in seventh or eighth grade and Clarkrange High School girls’ basketball was a hot ticket. Just been blessed to have always had a lot of support. Great administrative support, and of course, you have to have parents’ support. I’m humbled. I never would have dreamed this.”
Perhaps not, but the accomplishments of the Clarkrange program in Rogers’ nearly half-century at the helm are almost too numerous to chronicle. The Lady Buffaloes own an astounding 25 trips to the Class A State Tournament, eight of them resulting in gold-ball championships and three more runner-up finishes.
More than 50 of Rogers’ former players count college basketball scholarships among their accomplishments, and his 1,289 wins against just 290 career losses are the Midas-gold standard among active prep coaches.
“We are extremely happy for Lamar and his family,” stated Bernard Childress, Executive Director of TSSAA. “He has been such a well-known and respected coach in Tennessee. The contributions he has made to Clarkrange High School, their community, and the sport of basketball are countless. We are honored to have him represent our state as an inductee into the National High School Hall of Fame. This is a very proud moment for the state of Tennessee and TSSAA, but most of all, it’s a proud moment for Lamar’s family. We appreciate all of his years of service as a coach and educator in Tennessee and the impact he’s had on the lives of so many student athletes.”
Turns out, that trademark whistle carries with it echoes across all levels of basketball, throughout the state of Tennessee and beyond.
“That’s something players have said, I have a good whistle,” Rogers said. “Usually it’s just to get their attention out on the court, and they hear that whistle and turn and perk up a little bit. But it’s been a family, Clarkrange basketball, and we’ve had a lot of people just come to watch Lady Buffalo basketball who liked to come to our games, we’ve always had a full gym. I’m just really tickled for our fans and our community.”
The devotion to Clarkrange basketball, and the community embrace, are seen in the generations of families who have and do play for Rogers’ program.
Smith recalls her own childhood dreams of playing for the program, and even now, as vice president of human resources for Ryman Hospitality Properties, readily hearkens back to the lifelong lessons of Clarkrange hoops.
From the interwoven community fabric to the lessons she still deploys today.
“The community piece of it is that basketball was the thing, especially girls’ basketball,” said Smith, back-to-back Class A Tournament MVP in 1984-85 for Rogers and whose nieces just finished their careers last year before going on to play college basketball. “Those were your Friday nights, Saturday nights, Tuesday nights. Everyone just kind of packing up and following this team wherever they would travel with young children in tow, everybody so excited. It’s been so successful, and I think that’s contagious. There’s a lot to be said for that, especially in a small town.”
Clarkrange 1983 State Champions
Smith, a former business major, remains astonished by Rogers' impact on the lives of the many players that earned athletic scholarships to college and how broadly his coaching tree spreads its branches across Tennessee.
“It’s a winning tradition, it certainly is,” Smith said. “Everybody wants to be a winner, especially in a small town. It’s amazing the lives that have been touched, and even to this day, I still feel like I’m representing Clarkrange wherever I go.
“I think you just wanted to do your very best for Coach Rogers and didn’t want to disappoint. I don’t know inherently how he was able to command that kind of presence, especially with women’s basketball. It’s hard to coach girls, with all the different personalities, mannerisms and things like that. I don’t think most coaches have that kind of respect from their teams, and if you’re around Clarkrange, you just grew up knowing that.”
Rogers seems nowhere close to being done as Clarkrange’s chief ambassador. Closing in on five decades of service, Rogers’ granddaughter, Chloe, is fresh off her freshman season, and his youngest granddaughter, Hattie, already is learning the fundamentals of the game in elementary school.
“A few years back, I certainly didn’t think I’d be coaching my granddaughter, and I coached my daughter, Pamela, and we won a state title her senior year. That was great,” Rogers said. “My granddaughter Chloe has told me I’ve got to coach her, and now Hattie is telling me I’m going to coach her. I’ve had great support and it’s not been fun 100% of the time, been some long bus rides, but I’ve really enjoyed it. I guess I’m just a basketball junkie, been hanging around this long. But we get a lot of help in Clarkrange.
“Faith is first, then family, education and then basketball. Sometimes boys tie with basketball, and I have to adjust to that. My wife’s been my best support, and she helps keep me on my toes a lot. I definitely couldn’t have done any of this without her and her support. She’s just been an excellent basketball wife and excellent mother of my children.”
The National High School Hall of Fame was started in 1982 by the NFHS to honor high school athletes, coaches, contest officials, administrators, performing arts coaches/directors and others for their extraordinary achievements and accomplishments in high school sports and performing arts programs. This year’s class increases the number of individuals in the Hall of Fame to 506.
The 12 individuals were chosen after a two-stage selection process involving a screening committee composed of active high school state association administrators, coaches and officials, and a final selection committee composed of coaches, former athletes, state association officials, media representatives and educational leaders. Nominations were made by NFHS member associations.
About the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)
The NFHS, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the national leadership organization for high school sports and performing arts activities. Since 1920, the NFHS has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and performing arts activities that help students succeed in their lives. The NFHS sets direction for the future by building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports and activities. The NFHS writes playing rules for 17 sports for boys and girls at the high school level. Through its 50 member state associations and the District of Columbia, the NFHS reaches more than 19,500 high schools and 12 million participants in high school activity programs, including almost eight million in high school sports. As the recognized national authority on interscholastic activity programs, the NFHS conducts national meetings; sanctions interstate events; offers online publications and services for high school coaches and officials; sponsors professional organizations for high school coaches, officials, speech and debate coaches, and music adjudicators; serves as the national source for interscholastic coach training; and serves as a national information resource of interscholastic athletics and activities. For more information, visit the NFHS website at www.nfhs.org.
A complete list of the 2022 National High School Hall of Fame Class can be found below.
2022 National High School Hall of Fame Class
Notah Begay III
E. Wayne Cooley
Clarkrange 1985 State Champions
Clarkrange 1990 State Champions
Clarkrange 2004 State Champions
Clarkrange 2017 State Runner-up