ELIZABETHTOWN — Patty Evers has been known locally, and even regionally, as one of the top high-school coaches. And on Thursday, she will be recognized as the state’s best all-around coach for 2014.
Evers was tabbed the winner of the Doris Howard Female Coach of the Year Award. It will be presented during the annual meeting of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association in Chapel Hill.
“This is the biggest one (award) in the state,” Evers said. She (Doris Howard) coached my college basketball coach, so that tells you what this means to me. Just the name on the award … she’s an icon in the state.”
Evers has coached basketball for 13 seasons at East Bladen with tremendous success, especially over the past several seasons. She took the Lady Eagles to three straight state championships and, last season, made a run to the East Region semifinals before finishing with a 28-2 record.
She has also been the school athletics director for the past few years and, two years ago, took over the girls varsity softball team and turned it around.
In addition to those duties, Evers also heads up the schools DREAM team and assists with Bladen County Special Olympics.
In 2007, Evers was given the Toby Webb Award, which honors the state’s top boys and girls basketball coach; and, in 2011, she was the winner of the Pat Gainey Award, which recognizes excellence in character, achievement and coaching. Both awards are presented by the NCHSAA.
But she never saw this one coming.
“Oh, gosh no,” she said. “This isn’t just a basketball award, it’s an all-around award, which makes it so much more of an honor.”
Evers said she didn’t find out about the award in the usual way. Normally, the award-winner is notified by mail — but since the school is closed for spring break, Evers hadn’t received the letter.
“I was driving Lacey (Suggs) to AAU practice. We were in the gym parking lot and I saw it on Twitter,” Evers explained. “I just started crying … .”
Howard, a member of the NCHSAA Hall of Fame, served more than four decades as a high-school coach, with stops at Hope Mills, Cape Fear and Central high schools. She won 533 games as a basketball coach and also has a state softball title to her credit.
Evers, who was named the Four County Conference Co-Coach of the Year and the Cape Fear Region Coach of the Year by the Fayetteville Observer, said the accolades are humbling, but they are not the reason she does what she does.
“I never got into coaching for the individual awards,” she said. “I do it because I love the sports and the players I have.
“This (award) really shocked me,” she added. “But honestly, my focus is more on winning a state championship here at East Bladen. That’s what really drives me.”
Evers’ resume sparkles, but more important is her reputation throughout the region. Her counterpart in coaching at West Bladen High, Pam Stephens, didn’t hesitate to say how proud she is and deserving Evers is of the award.
“They couldn’t award it to anyone more deserving,” said Stephens, varsity girls basketball and softball coach at West Bladen. “She works hard, loves her players and is very competitive.”
Stephens said she and Evers have been connected ever since Evers became a coach at the newly consolidated East Bladen. In fact, Stephens helped Evers secure the job at East Bladen.
“I had coached at East Bladen for seven years, but was transferring to Bladenboro Primary,” Stephens said. “And Patty asked if I’d put a word in for her because she wanted to transfer from Tar Heel High. So I did, and she got the job.”
That connection has led to a mutual respect for each other, not only within the coaching ranks, but also as a solid friendship.
“She’s always been helpful to me whenever I’ve needed it; I depend on her wisdom in basketball especially — she’s been one of my mentors through the years and I’ve learned a lot from her,” said Stephens. “She’s just one of the best coaches I know.
“She’s also been a good friend, and that’s even more important,” she added.