Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

February 14, 2014

Legendary Lady Panther head coach Evelyn Wright retires after 31 seasons

AMERICUS — As the Americus-Sumter Lady Panthers’  basketball season came to an end in the second round of the Region 1-AAAA Tournament on Tuesday, so did the career of legendary head coach Evelyn Wright. The leader of the Lady Panthers for the last 31 years announced earlier this season that she would retire at the end of the 2013-14 season, and that moment came on Tuesday with a 51-40 loss to Dougherty County.

Wright began her journey at Americus High School during the 1978-79 season where she served as an assistant varsity coach and head junior varsity coach under Clyde McGrady. In 1983 Wright took over as the head coach of the Lady Panthers, a position that she held until the merger of Americus High School and Sumter County High School in 2004.

With a career already filled with success, Wright was tabbed to become the first head coach of the Americus-Sumter High School Lady Panthers in 2004. Over the past 10 years Wright has led the Lady Panthers to several playoff appearances while maintaining her status as the only head coach in Americus-Sumter girls’ basketball history.

Over her 31-year career as a head coach, Wright coached over 450 girls and complied more than 400 career victories. Her best season as a head coach came in 2007-08 when her team finished with a staggering 26-3 record and won a region championship and advanced to the Elite Eight round of the GHSA State Playoffs. Other accomplishments for Wright include a Final Four appearance in the state playoffs in 1994-95 and a game in which her team scored a record 111 points against Dooly County in 1995.

In Americus-Sumter’s home finale against Crisp County on Feb. 7, Wright was honored with a surprise retirement ceremony at halftime of the boys’ game. With her friends, family, and former players surrounding her, Wright was showered with gifts including a rocking chair with the inscription, ‘You Rock’, a plaque from the Mayor’s office, a plant, and a signed basketball from her former players. It was apparent that Wright had touched the lives of hundreds of young players, parents, coworkers and administrators over the years.

With a gymnasium full of people who have been touched in some way, Wright was given the mic to speak to the crowd. A short but sincere thank you speech ended with her saying, “Remember what I’ve always said about a young lady. A young lady should be seen and not heard.” Every former player echoed right in unison.

The 2014-15 basketball season will be very strange for Lady Panther fans. For the first time in over 30 years there will be someone other than Wright holding the clipboard. This is not a sad time for Wright, however.

“That ceremony for me was way more than anything I could have expected. It was great, and I enjoyed every minute of my coaching career. This is not a sad time, and seeing all of my old players reminded me of why I coached all of those years.”


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