It’s interesting when two sports hall of fame members speak about the other.
That “sharing” of the “spotlight” could be “key” to their being in respective halls of fame.
Recent Cannon County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Harold (the Voice) Patrick said he knew “long ago” that “Ricky” Insell would one day be in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
When someone uses the name “Ricky,” MTSU’s women’s head basketball Coach Insell automatically knows it’s likely someone calling from his boyhood in Woodbury.
“I coached basketball against Ricky in the Jr. Pro League,” credited Patrick. “That’s when I first learned that Ricky was something special as a coaching mentor of youth.”
Interestingly, neither men made respective halls of fames due to sports prowess.
Standing at five feet, six inches in height, one can assume Insell never “slam-dunked” a basketball. But Insell “stands tall” amongst the coaching legends of the Volunteer State.
Patrick acknowledges it was not “athleticism,” but his “voice” as a long time local radio sports broadcaster that triggered his recent induction in the Cannon County Sports Hall of Fame.
“Neither Rick or I were blessed with great personal athletic abilities,” Patrick assessed shortly after his recent induction into the local hall of fame, sponsored by Woodbury’s historic newspaper, the Cannon Courier, that dates back to the 1880s.
Although known nationally as a top college coach, Insell consistently acknowledges “hometown roots” during newspaper interviews.
Being recognized recently in Tennessee’s highest stratosphere of sports obviously touched the former Woodbury boy’s emotions.
“I was fortunate to grow up in Woodbury,” Insell stated shortly after he was installed May 19 in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. “It’s very humbling.”
“I’ve benefitted from great players, great parents and great communities,” Insell credited with obvious humility.
“By the time Ricky started coaching professional at little West Side School in Cannon County, it was obvious he was destined for bigger things,” Patrick credited. “Now, I rate him as the best women’s coach in Tennessee.”
Insell left the comfort zone of his Cannon County boyhood to coach Shelbyville High girls’ basketball, ultimately leading them to 10 state titles and two USA Today national championships, posting a 775-148 won-loss record. He was named national coach of the year four different times.
“Ricky was born to coach,” echoed Patrick in his best baritone announcing voice that was legend on Woodbury Radio Station WBRY in the 1960-70s. “We knew that from his earliest volunteer coaching days.”
It was that “first job” at little West Side Elementary School that helped “launch” Coach Insell’s professional career after graduating from MTSU in 1977.
“Supt. Of Schools (the late) Barney Bragg gave me my first teacher’s aide job at West Side, where they also needed a coach,” Insell traced back in time. “Superintendent Bragg was a foundation stone in Cannon County education and society.”
The other “coach” at West Side School was another Cannon County education legend, “Miss” Annie Cox, also now deceased.
“I was at West Side in 1977-78, before moving to Shelbyville,” noted Coach Insell, the son of Woodbury natives Charles and Dot Insell. “I was blessed, really blessed to work side-by-side with Miss Annie Cox, a beloved legendary teacher who touched all our lives so positively.”
The coach heaped more praise on Woodbury Mayor Patrick, now retired from broadcasting.
“With Harold’s passion for youth and their sports, he touched thousands of young lives,” Insell added. “Not many small schools, like (former) Woodbury High, had their sports events broadcast regularly on the radio.
“With Harold, it wasn’t just basketball,” Insell detailed. “He was there for softball, baseball and football…because he was respected by so many people, Mayor Patrick was a ‘politician’ before he knew he was a ‘politician.’”
“Harold never did broadcasting as a ‘job,’” Insell added. “In fact, it probably cost him money, especially games on the road, to broadcast all those years. That’s how dedicated he has always been to his community.”
Interestingly, after 40-plus years of newspapering, I’ve noticed the truly “great ones” are more prone to credit others, rather than talk about themselves.