Donald Clark to be inducted into North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame
Now a teacher at Parrott Academy in Kinston, Donald Clark is getting recognized for his outstanding work with the Greene Central High School tennis program.
SNOW HILL - Lack of equipment.
Four broken, grass-covered tennis courts.
A 0-32 start to his coaching career.
It hardly sounds like the resume of a Hall of Fame inductee.
Unless you’re Donald Clark.
A dedicated coach with a blue-collar mentality, Clark is among this year’s eight-member class slated for enshrinement into the N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
He is joined by Barbara Foxx (Southern Pines), Henry Jones (Cherryville), the late Novell T. Lee (Goldsboro), Fred McDaniel (Wade), Ron Person (Reidsville), David Rothwell (Statesville) and Milt Sherman (Greenville).
The formal induction ceremony is April 18, 2020, at the Embassy Suites in Cary.
“I’m really speechless, which is strange for anybody who knows me,” Clark said. “I’m just incredibly humbled by the news. It’s an honor that I never dreamed of...the highest honor for any coach in North Carolina. To be in the Hall of Fame with so many coaches that I have nothing but deep respect for is just an unbelievable experience.
“The first thing I thought of is ‘wow, I’m going to be in the same Hall of Fame with Lindsey Linker from East Chapel Hill, John Frye from Union Pines and Gil Bowman from Fayetteville Terry Sanford’ - three people I have learned so much from over the years and just admire so much.”
Clark remembers evenings when he’d stare at an empty Greene County Tennis Complex and reflect about the program’s modest beginning.
He had to beg for tennis balls. Players walked across the parking lot and crawled through bushes to retrieve stray balls after every practice.
On match day, his team competed on four old, weather-beaten courts where grass grew through the cracks.
“It was a long road,” Clark said.
But well worth it.
Players trusted Clark and bought into his ‘get better every day’ philosophy. The parents formed the Greene County Tennis Association, which led to the construction of the current 12-court Greene County Tennis Complex. The facility hosted United States Tennis Association tournaments that gave Greene Central players matches against quality competition.
Clark picked the brains of opposing coaches, learned drills and strategies that proved beneficial for his teams - a gritty group of “country girls” who could play toe-to-toe with anybody when they stepped onto the court.
By the early 2000s, Greene Central was a household name.
“That brought me intense pride that the girls had made a name for themselves in the tennis community by their performance on the court,” Clark said. “This is my greatest source of pride that these girls have shown through hard work and determination that they could compete with anyone.
“I think that I was very lucky to have some girls who were willing put forth an extra effort, some parents that were very patient and trusted me with their kids...just a desire on my part and the part of the kids and parents to let’s get better every day.”
A perennial powerhouse that remains among the state’s elite programs today, Greene Central racked up 589 wins (girls and boys combined) and collected 26 regular-season conference championships during Clark’s tenure.
The Rams played for 11 NCHSAA 2-A girls’ dual-team crowns and won it all in 2005 and 2007.
Clark stepped away after the 2013 season.
His blueprint for success now belongs to Tim Medlin.
“The great thing about Donald is when he handed the keys to me, he told me ‘be yourself,’” Medlin said. “That freed me a lot to have my own coaching style, and certainly all the foundation - including the middle school teams, clinics going on here and facilities we enjoy are all from what he built.
“We’re very proud to be able to carry on what he started and extremely proud of him for a well-deserved honor.”
Even if Clark considers himself an unlikely honoree.