Monday, March 24, 2014
Paul Runey isn't big on individual awards.
The self-effacing Bishop England girls basketball coach is grateful, but always humble. He can't – or won't – tell you how many wins he's amassed but is quick to reel off the assistants and players who won with him.
So as he accepted one of South Carolina basketball's most prestigious high school honors, it only made sense that the legendary coach deferred to his program.
“It's a great honor, but I've always felt kind of awkward about receiving awards,” Runey said. “I've been blessed with so many great people who've helped win those games and titles. This is an award for Bishop England.”
Runey was one of five coaches inducted into the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Friday in Columbia. Since taking over the head girls basketball job in the 1984-85 season, he's won 591 games, including a host of region titles, a Lower State championship and two state championships. In 30 years, he's never had a losing season.
Friday's hall of fame induction caps a season that saw 27 wins, two all-state selections and a dominant march through the Class AA playoffs toward the Bishops' second state championship in three years.
“It kind of helps to validate where this program is,” Runey said. “I know how hard these kids work to accomplish the things they have and this is as much for them as it is for me.”
He doesn't come from a coaching bloodline, but it was always in him whether he realized it or not. Runey, 58, won his first championship at 12 years old, coaching a girls T-ball team to the Moultrie Park 11-year-old league championship. In eighth grade, classmates predicted each other's futures and Runey was declared a future coach of Bishop England.
In 1975, just a year after Runey graduated from Bishop England, legendary coach Jack Cantey changed Runey's life with an invitation to join the Bishops' football staff. Under Cantey's tutelage, Runey fell in love with coaching. Then a business major at College of Charleston, he switched his focus to education in hopes of pursuing a career in coaching and teaching. In the almost 40 years since then, he's coached baseball, wrestling, tennis and now serves as the school's athletic director and girls basketball coach.
“Jack was the perfect example of a Bishop England coach and I tried to learn as much as I could and apply that to my own career,” Runey said. “It got into my blood. I never looked at it like a job. Being part of the tradition at BE has always been something really special to me.”
Runey is one of just 49 in the SCBCA Hall of Fame. He joins longtime Burke coach Earl Brown, Gaffney's Mark Huff, Timmonsville's Perry Stokes and former Saluda coach Tommy Mitchell in this year's class.
When he first got into coaching, he didn't set any long-term goals. As the awards and milestones racked up over the years, things have come into perspective for him, but he still doesn't do it for the personal accolades. It's the players and new classes, some who are now second generation, along with the families, coaches and volunteers who keep him going.
“Even though we've been fortunate enough to be successful, I don't measure it by the titles,” Runey said. “As long as I can make a difference in the kids' lives, as long as they're better than when they entered, then I'm accomplishing my goals.”
Frankie Mansfield, the sports reporter for the Moultrie News can be seen all around the state following teams to meets, games, and matches. For score updates, breaking sports news, and more follow @fjmansfield on Twitter.