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Wells bound for Hall of Fame
Former MHS assistant and head coach won eight state titles with Bulldogs
In this 2008 photo, former Martinsville boys basketball coach Troy Wells directs his team from the bench. Wells won eight state championships in his 30 years at Martinsville, his last coming in 2006. He left in 2009 to become the head coach at Hidden Valley. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Sunday, July 15, 2012
By DAVID REYNOLDS - Bulletin Sports Editor
Back when former Martinsville High School basketball coach Troy Wells was beginning his head coaching career at Christiansburg High School, he wasn’t thinking about his Hall of Fame induction speech.
He had more pressing matters at hand — like trying to win a single game.
“If you had told me after my first head coaching job at Christiansburg High School,” Wells said, “where we went 1-19, 2-28, 3-17, that, ‘Yeah, you’re Hall of Fame material,’ I’d tell you you’ve gotta be crazy.”
Thirty-three years since he came to MHS and eight state championship rings later — three as a head coach and five as an assistant — the Virginia High School Hall of Fame selected Wells to be a member of its 23rd class on Friday. Wells and eight others will bring the total membership into the Hall of Fame to 234, and he is scheduled to be inducted on October 15.
“I’m very humbled and grateful for the honor, but it’s not about me and never has been,” Wells said. “There were some great administrators at Martinsville, some great administrators at Hidden Valley where I’m located now, tremendous coaches I’ve been associated with, and then the players as well. It’s the combination and the culmination of a lot of people coming together and working together.”
Wells led Martinsville to state titles as a head coach in 2001, 2002 and 2006, and he was also part of legendary Martinsville coach Robert “Husky” Hall’s staff when the Bulldogs advanced to eight straight state championship games from 1979 until 1986. Wells has 250 wins, nine district championships and seven regional titles as a head coach, and he has taken Hidden Valley to three of the last four state tournaments since leaving Martinsville High School in 2008.
According to a release from the Virginia Hall of Fame, Wells helped guide Martinsville to the state tournament 17 times, and the Bulldogs made the final four in that tournament 13 times. He was the head coach of Martinsville for 14 years and an assistant under Hall for 16 seasons.
He has also been voted the Associated Press’s coach of the year twice.
“Coach Wells, all four years in high school, he taught me how to become a man, my work ethic, how to be a better student in school,” said Quan Beamer, the leading scorer on the 2006 Martinsville state title team. “He taught me a lot of things in life.”
Wells can’t help but smile when thinking about his state title teams, remarking how tough it is just to make a state tournament.
Of his back-to-back state title teams in 2001-02, Wells joked that if any of his five starters had played at another high school, they all could have scored more than 20 points per game.
But as it was, Wells convinced those players to sacrifice their own statistics for the good of the program. The Martinsville starters all averaged between 11 and 15 points, forming an unpredictable offensive attack that proved unstoppable in the playoffs.
“I’ve had coaches come up to me time and time again, saying, ‘How did you get those kids to play together, as talented as they were?’” Wells said. “They just bought into the philosophy that the team was more important than the individual. The name on the front of the jersey, which was Martinsville, was much more important on the back of the jersey.”
But while his 2001 and 2002 teams were blessed with almost too much talent, he had the opposite problem in 2006.
With what he called a far less talented team than the ’01 and ’02 seasons, the eventual state title team dropped its first three games and looked to be on course for a forgettable season. But the Bulldogs rebounded to win 23 of its final 26 games, including shocking Robert E. Lee 63-54 in the championship game.
Robert E. Lee came into that game on a state-record 85-game winning streak before being stunned by the Wells-coached squad.
“I had several basketball officials tell me about that team, ‘Coach, you were awful at Christmas time ... you guys weren’t very good.’ I said, ‘You’re exactly right.’” Wells said with a laugh. “That was probably something that I’ll never forget because we weren’t overly talented, but they just kept working hard.”
As for what changed? That’s simple, Beamer said.
“(Wells) got us to start bonding together as a team, start trusting each other, and it all came together,” Beamer said. “Like he told us (after the Robert E. Lee game), ‘Nine times out of 10, when we play that team, they’re probably going to beat us. But on that one given night, we could beat them.’ And we did.”
Wells also has been the Virginia High School Coaches Association coach of the year twice, and he has captured region and district coach of the year honors nine times.
Wells assisted Hall from 1979-95 before taking over the program from 1995-08. Since leaving the Bulldogs, he has once appearance in the state title game with Hidden Valley.
Wells is still coaching the Titans, and he returned to the Piedmont District in the playoffs this season to knock Bassett High School out of the Region IV tournament.
“Five (state titles) as an assistant and three as a head coach, I’ve been blessed beyond measure,” Wells said. “I’ve got to be one of the luckiest guys in the world.”
The eight other people honored by the Virginia High School Hall of Fame were: Stacy Ervin, Twin Springs High School; Pat Deegan, James Madison High School and Westfield High School; John Shotwell, James River High School; Robert Smith, Burley High School; John Altizer, Appalachian Officials Association; Mary Sue Crommelin, First Colonial High School; Steve Geiman, Wilson Memorial High School; and Bruce Patrick, Fairfax County Public Schools.