KINGSPORT - Happy Valley's ageless wonder, Charlie Bayless, is experiencing the worst record (2-16) of his 53-year coaching career.
But Bayless, 83, the state's winningest active high school basketball coach, is as energetic as he was 20 years ago.
"I still enjoy coaching,'' he said. "It's a challenge to me.''
With that familiar towel draped over his shoulders and carrying a numbered table tennis paddle to signal defensive changes, Bayless was on the losing end of a 61-53 score against Sullivan North on Tuesday night.
Bayless, who has 921 victories, took time out to recognize the work of a young coach rising in the ranks.
Rookie coach Mitch Cox, 24, has restored life to a North program that was 6-25 last season.
"I thought we'd improved,'' Bayless said, "but North has, too.
"Cox has done a real good job with this team. North runs its offense well, has good shooters and plays aggressive defense.
"He has (the Golden Raiders) playing as a team. They run fast breaks pretty well.''
After Happy Valley opened a 4-0 lead, Cox called a timeout. North scored 36 of the next 52 points.
"North put pressure on our guards and we couldn't get the ball in to start our plays,'' Bayless said.
Cox, a former Sullivan South player, said coaching is all he's ever considered doing. He suffered a broken hand as a senior and didn't pursue college ball.
"I wanted to get my degree as soon as possible and start coaching,'' he said. "I felt it was something I was called to do.''
He was greatly influenced by South coaches Mike Williams and Mike Rogers.
Almost overnight, he has restored pride in North's program with an 11-11 start. With two more victories, he actually will become the second-winningest coach in school history.
John McCrary, the original coach, had a lengthy tenure. Former Harlem Globetrotter Ty Randolph won just 12 games with the Raiders. Cox replaced Matt Baker, who also had the team for just one season.
David Joyner, a pepper-pot guard, hit from all angles to score 21 points and lead the Raiders. In the last 50 seconds of the opening quarter, he had six points.
"Everything went right for us in the first half,'' Joyner said. "When I'm shooting well, I'll shoot the ball. I'll take what (opponents) are giving me. But I still look for the team effort.''
North (11-11, 5-4 Watauga Conference) came out breathing fire and didn't let up until it had a 36-20 halftime lead.
"Our defense had been slacking off the last few games,'' Joyner said. "We stepped it up tonight and our defense became our offense.''
Dustin Doran followed Joyner with a 12-point output, while Nick Moore, a 6-foot-3 senior, came to North's rescue down the stretch.
"He scored seven points in the fourth quarter,'' Cox said. "Those were big points that kind of stopped Happy Valley's momentum.''
Moore, who finished with 11, was returning to the team after sitting out a couple of weeks because of a turned ankle.
"When Nick goes out,'' Cox said, "we miss that consistent second scorer in the paint.''
North was more effective in an up-tempo game. Once the Raiders slowed down, Happy Valley (2-16, 1-7) rallied.
"We got back on our heels and let (the Warriors) creep back into it,'' Cox said.
Happy Valley's big scorers were Brandon Whitehead with 21 and Brandon McCloud with 17.
The Happy Valley girls beat North 59-38 as Hannah Banks hit 18 points. Keisha Day scored 10 for North.