Wilma Crowe and Barbara Coughenour stand in front of the mural featuring their late husbands, Dan Crowe and Tom Coughenour, at Dobyns-Bennett High School’s Crowe-Coughenour Track during a dedication ceremony Friday. (Ned Jilton II photo)
KINGSPORT — Dan Crowe and Tom Coughenour are both enshrined in the TSSAA Hall of Fame.
Now the two Dobyns-Bennett track and field coaching legends gaze down from their own Wall of Fame.
“The vision that a lot of us had is now a reality up here. These two iconic coaches have become a Kingsport landmark,” said Indians track and cross country coach Bob Bingham, who served as master of ceremonies during Friday’s dedication of the new mural at the Crowe-Coughenour Track.
The Kingsport Board of Education officially named the facility after the two highly decorated Indians coaches roughly a year ago. The two men won a combined nine state track and field team championships and coached 19 individuals who collected multiple gold medals at the TSSAA meet.
Crowe, who laid the foundation for the school’s perennially successful track and field, and cross country programs, died in 2005. Coughenour, who shifted his career focus after gaining his first coaching notoriety as a wily defensive coordinator under D-B football coach Fred Walton, died in 2008.
Crowe, a part-time poet and history buff, coached at D-B from 1967 to 1979. Coughenour took it from there until he semi-retired, handing the reins to Bingham in 2007.
The initial design of the mural was drawn up by Indians track assistant Paige Hubbard, an art teacher at the school. The final project was executed by mural artist Kathy Blair of Murals and More in Johnson City.
Recent completion of the monumental outdoor artwork served as a fitting occasion to carry out dedication observances that had been postponed earlier this spring because of bad weather.
“It was very emotional when I first saw (the mural),” said Crowe’s widow, Wilma Crowe. “I happened to come by one day when they were working and they had the faces done. I cried a lot that day, but I’m OK tonight.”
Barbara Coughenour was visibly moved in the presence of her late husband’s towering visage. She said she was “deeply humbled” by the both the naming of the track and the mural.
“Dan was the man. He taught Tommy so much. Really, after he started doing track and cross country with Dan, that was all he wanted to do,” Mrs. Coughenour said. “It was a good move and I’m glad they let him do that.”
The influence of both coaches extends far beyond the confines of the D-B programs during their respective tenures.
Retired Sullivan North track and cross country coach David Pearcy was a member of the first John Sevier Middle School track squad coached by then-rookie Coughenour. Pearcy went on to run on the first D-B varsity track team headed by Crowe. He was subsequently a colleague of both during his own coaching career.
“(Crowe) was like a fly on the wall. You never knew where he was. But anywhere you went, he always seemed to show up. You looked over your shoulder and there he was,” Pearcy recalled fondly.
“He called all of us heroes. We won the Big 7 championship that year only winning one race, I believe. We had a lot of depth and took a lot of seconds and thirds,” Pearcy said.
Competing for the Tribe during the mid-1970s, Randy Irvin won a state title in the 180-yard low hurdles.
“Coach Crowe was my head coach and Coach Coughenour was my event coach. Both are in the Hall of Fame. How awesome is that?” said Irvin, now the track coach at Tennessee High.
The mural, which covers much of the tall concrete retaining wall that runs parallel to Eastman Road, is pretty awesome in its own right.
“This was certainly a challenge. We had to get up first and grind the rust off the top ridge. Then we primed it with two coats of gray, then the lettering and the pictures on it. So it was quite a chore,” said Blair, who credited assistant Dave Keys with much of the execution of the two giant portraits.
(Click on the photo below to see an enlarged version.)