An East Texas icon is hanging up his whistle.
Fred Griffin, who has coached the last 35 years at Brownsboro High School, has decided to retire. His final home game is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Friday when his Brownsboro Bearettes girls basketball team plays host to Canton.
Griffin’s career has taken him from the bayous of Louisiana to the oceanside near South Beach to the Piney Woods of East Texas.
Griffin reached the milestone of 1,000 wins two years ago on Feb. 9, 2016. He has a career record of 1,044 and 361 — that’s 74 percent.
“I have been so lucky,” Griffin said. “I was lucky to find a place in Brownsboro I liked and the people are great. Although Brownsboro is not my hometown, I was treated like a hometown boy.
“I couldn’t have asked for better support from my family and the community. I worked for some great superintendents and great athletic directors.”
It all began at West End Academy in Franklin, Louisiana, then to Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, followed by a return to Hicks High School in Louisiana. Then came the move to Texas; and he and his family settled in Brownsboro.
“It’s just time for a younger person,” Griffin said. “I want to spend more time with my wife and my grandchildren.”
He is a member of the Texas Girls Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
In his 41 years of coaching, he has had a winning record in 38 of those seasons and has won 20 district championships. His teams have made the playoffs in 35 seasons and at Brownsboro, the Bearettes have been in the postseason 30 of 35 years.
Griffin and his wife, Renee, have been married 43 years. They have three daughters — Kathleen Griffin Smith, Allison Griffin Bierig and Caroline Griffin Jordan — and four grandchildren — Griffin Bierig, Carter Bierig, Zeb Smith and Edie Smith. And there’s another one on the way — Caroline is due March 8 with a boy set to be named Everett.
Griffin has taken the Bearettes to eight regional tournaments and four trips to the state tournament (1989, 1994, 2003, 2006). He took two teams to the state tournament in Louisiana.
A basketball memory is when his 38-0 team lost in the state semifinals on a half-court shot. But there are lots of other pleasant memories of winning district titles and cutting down the nets at regionals.
His most cherished memories — “I love seeing my players doing well in life.”
Griffin added, “I enjoy seeing a player getting better; seeing when that light comes on.”
While Griffin is the face of the program, he said it takes so much more.
“Nobody can do this by himself,” Griffin said. “I have had the support of my wife and family, the Brownsboro administration, athletic directors and school boards over the years.
“I have always had good assistant coaches. If I had to talk about one coach who got me started and I look up to the most, it would be coach Billy Allgood from Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana. I learned a lot from him at college and always called him and when I needed him he always took time to listen and help me.”
Along with basketball, he coached 20-plus years in football and track.
Griffin also was instrumental in creating the Great East Texas Shootout, one of the biggest and top basketball tournaments in Texas.
“When I got here in ’83-84, there was a Brownsboro Tournament with six girls teams and six boys teams,” he said.
He made the GETSO into a slam dunk of a tourney. The 2017 tourney had 31 girls and 20 boys teams entered with some 100 games played over a three-day period.
Griffin noted how so many people help with the tournament; it’s a sense of pride for the community. It raises money for the Brownsboro Booster Club. The funds are used for all the programs.
Griffin said he will be a “little less tense” when the GETSO rolls around in December.
“I just got the 27th girls team entered today,” said Griffin, who is turning over the reins of the tournament to Bears coach Brent Smith.
While Griffin is retiring “from the whole shooting match,” his legacy will continue to live on with the thousands of players and students he taught.