Payne celebrates coaching career
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Several of Payne's former players, assistant coaches and even his former athletic director at Watauga High were on hand to celebrate Payne's 38-year career in coaching by presenting him with a plaque in appreciation.
Payne, whose first job was at Beaver Creek in Ashe, has coached there, at Watauga and then at Ashe High. He also spent two years coaching at Coastal Carolina while getting his master's degree.
The event was put together by current Ashe head boys' basketball coach Scott Grubb, who called Watauga boys' basketball coach Rob Sanders about getting some of Payne's former players to return to Ashe for the presentation.
Both coaches were able to find about 50 former players to come.
"I didn't know anything was happening until I saw all of our former players who started coming in," Payne said at a reception that was held at the school's cafeteria after the boys' game. "I didn't know anything like that was going on. I kept seeing all the players I had the honor to coach. It was a great turnout. It was a very special night to see all of them."
The plaque was given to Payne by former player Sam Misher, who is the current principal at Northern Guilford Middle School. Misher played for Payne while attending Beaver Creek, where he graduated in 1978.
Payne started coaching at Beaver Creek in 1974.
"His team, when he was a senior, finished third in the state in 2-A basketball," Payne said. "That was back in the days when they took the eight district winners and took them to one site and played a tournament. We beat some pretty good teams and in the semifinals, we lost to Wake Forest-Rolesville, which was the defending 3-A champs who had dropped to 2-A to play."
Sanders and Grubb were both assistant coaches to Payne. Sanders remembered that Payne would let him watch practices when Sanders was a middle school basketball coach.
"I wouldn't be sitting here without him," Sanders said. "I can tell you that. I got into this game at the middle school level when I was still in college and was very fortunate that coach Payne allowed me to come over as the middle school coach and watch his practices and just pick up as much as I can and feed it into the middle school system."
Payne led his teams to 13 regular season conference championships, including six straight at Beaver Creek from 1982-87.
He also became the Watauga head coach in 1989 and later the athletic director before heading back to Ashe County in 2002 to be that school's athletic director and boys' basketball coach.
Grubb took over the boys' basketball position last season.
"That was one of our good hires," said former Watauga athletic director Jack Groce, who hired Payne to Watauga. "It was always a pleasure working with Marc. He is really one of the truly dedicated educators. Ashe County kept tugging at him and tugging at him and it certainly was Watauga's loss and Ashe County's gain again."