February 20, 2012
Monday night marked the final home game for 42-year head coach Fletcher Arritt. Fork Union's post-graduate boys' basketball coach will retire at the end of the season after being diagnosed with stage three lymphoma back in December.
Coach Arritt said it's simply time to move on.
"Your body tells you when it's over, so I'm not gonna miss anything," he said after Monday's game. "It's been a good run, I've had a lot of fun, I've made a lot of friends...there's a time to quit and I've reached that point."
On Monday, there was standing room only as former players, coaches, fans and community members came to support Arritt in his home finale against Fishburne Military Academy. The Blue Devils led 42-41 at halftime, before Fishburne took control of a sloppy second half and won handily, 80-68.
"I suppose there's some emotion," said Arritt. "But honestly in this game of basketball you take one game at a time and there's nothing to get too emotional about. Frankly, when you're down eight, I don't worry about the 'last game' I worry about trying to finish this one and we didn't do a good job, but that's how it is."
The school presented Coach Arritt and his wife with flowers, a basketball signed by the team, and a plaque signed by fans in attendance. Among the crowd was UNC graduate and former L.A. Laker Shammond Williams, who graduated from FUMA in 1994.
"He's done so much for a lot of individuals," said Williams, who currently lives in Chapel Hill. "It's just great to have the opportunity to come back and say thank you for the things that he's done."
"The saddest thing to me is that there are a lot of kids that are going to miss out on the things that he has to offer," said 1995 graduate Rich Sutherland. "As he moves on there's just a group of kids that aren't going to have that opportunity."
"The one thing he really stressed was discipline," said Brent Conley, another 1995 graduate. "That's the main thing he brings to you, no matter where you went to school, how you played...everybody comes here and does the same thing."
"It's just a lot of hard work," added Sutherland. "It's his way or the highway. He sets real high expectations and everyone is held to the same standard."
Including coach himself.
"I'm afraid for cancer at this point," said Sutherland. "Because he's not going to quit until the bitter end."
Arritt, 70, graduated from Fork Union in 1960, playing one year for the post-grad squad before a career at the University of Virginia. He joined the FUMA staff in 1966 as a biology teacher and assistant before taking over the boys' team in 1970. Arritt has coached over 500 players in his 42 seasons at FUMA, sending more than 200 to the Division I level. Seven of those players went on to play in the NBA.
"If you like doing what you're doing, you keep doing it. I don't particularly like it tonight but then again there are other times I do like it."
Arritt will coach his final game on Friday March 2, when the team travels to Princeton University.