PHOTOS: Coach with most victories in Arkansas high school basketball history holds own court for final time

Posted: February 3, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.
Updated: February 5, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Guy-Perkins Coach John Hutchcraft (right) wipes away tears during a halftime ceremony Friday night. Hutchcraft, who has more than 2,000 career victories, is retiring after the season.

GUY -- John Hutchcraft shed a few tears at halftime Friday night.

His Guy-Perkins girls basketball team had pulled within 35-32 of longtime rival Conway St. Joseph at halftime on sophomore Emi Acre's three-pointer.

But on this night in rural Faulkner County, the tears were not happening because of a three-pointer -- part of Hutchcraft's shoot-first coaching mentality during his 42-year career with Guy-Perkins, Hazen and Grubbs.

Hutchcraft, 64, coached his final two home games at Thunderbird Complex with the Guy-Perkins girls and boys basketball teams Friday night. He is retiring after this season. The Guy-Perkins girls lost 75-60 to Conway St. Joseph while the Guy-Perkins boys won 86-65.

During 40 seasons at Guy-Perkins, Hutchcraft has won 10 state championships -- five boys titles and five girls titles -- and has compiled a 2,003-613 overall record, the most victories for a basketball coach in Arkansas high school basketball history. He led the Guy-Perkins boys to the Class 1A state championship last season against Shirley in Hot Springs.

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Photos by Thomas Metthe

"I couldn't be here without the support of the Guy-Perkins community," Hutchcraft, who will be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in April, told a near-capacity crowd at Thunderbird Complex on Friday night at halftime of the girls basketball game. "I didn't want to go anywhere else."

Friday night did not mark the end of the Thunderbirds' (26-7) and the Lady Thunderbirds' (8-20) seasons. Guy-Perkins travels to Conway Christian on Tuesday and Pangburn on Friday to wrap up the regular season.

"I hope I got 10 or 15 more games," said Hutchcraft, referring to upcoming district, regional and state tournament games.

The support for Hutchcraft was expressed by his co-workers, his former players and through the Guy-Perkins students.

Signs adorning the baseline walls at Thunderbird Complex included the following messages:

• "Are we going to miss Coach Hutchcraft? Absolutely"

• "42 years ..... Hooooolllllyyyy Cow"

• "We love coach"

Guy-Perkins assistant coach and Athletic Director Damon Teas was one of several people inside Thunderbird Complex to wear gray shirts with the phrase "Leaving a Legacy" on the front. On the back were Hutchcraft's accomplishments, including coaching in the 2015 McDonald's All-American Game.

"It's been a very unforgettable experience," Teas said. "I'm from Mayflower. In Faulkner County, you know Coach Hutchcraft's name."

Charlotte Hutchcraft Sober was the first of Hutchcraft's three children to play for him. She played for the Lady Thunderbirds from 1992-1996.

"He was the hardest on me," said Hutchcraft Sober, whose brother Jason McGinty and sister Ashley Nance later played for Hutchcraft. Nance currently coaches the Conway girls basketball team.

In 2015, Charlotte wanted her son, Wyatt Spires, to play for her dad and his grandfather. She said that her dad still had a few years left in his coaching career.

So Wyatt, who is a senior on this year's Guy-Perkins team and had 20 points Friday, became the first grandchild to play for Hutchcraft.

"I tell him, 'You'll look back and think what an experience I had,' " Hutchcraft Sober told her son. "I got to play for my grandpa."

Guy-Perkins senior guard Tre Minton, who scored 23 points to lead the Thunderbirds on Friday, understood the game wasn't the typical last home game for a high school basketball team.

"I was hoping to get this win for coach," Minton said.

Friday night was an emotional night for Hutchcraft Sober as well as former players and administrators who returned to Guy-Perkins to see Hutchcraft's final home games. She helped put on the reception for her father before the games, showing off photos of Hutchcraft's coaching career as well as making a DVD that played on a TV screen in the lobby of the Thunderbird Complex.

"There were pics that I went through and I was like, 'Oh my God, I remember that,' " Hutchcraft Sober said.

Donald Ray Rowlett, who introduced Hutchcraft during his ceremony Friday, was the Guy-Perkins principal in 1978 when he hired Hutchcraft to coach the boys and girls basketball programs.

"I was there for his first home game and I'm here for his last home game," said Rowlett, who spent two stints at Guy-Perkins, including being superintendent from 1992-2002 before retiring.

Hutchcraft soon will join Rowlett in retirement, but he has no regrets about calling it quits after this season.

"I think I've got it made," Hutchcraft said. "I've been so blessed."

Guy-Perkins senior Gracey Acre (20) puts up a shot over Piper Mullaney of Conway St. Joseph during the Lady Thunderbirds’ 75-60 loss on Friday in Coac...

Sports on 02/03/2018