Stinnett to Win It
- Updated: January 28, 2017
Beloved ‘Voice of the Govs’ an inspiration far beyond playing field
The Stinnett family, Tyler, Haley, Rhonda, Hannah and Gary, enjoy some downtime at the beach.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2012. The subject, William Blount public address announcer Gary Stinnett, delivered a moving tribute to former Friendsville and Governor coach Bill Wallace on Friday as William Blount named the playing floor at Marvin Boring Gymnasium “Bill Wallace Court.” Wallace passed away last June.
By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row
Michael Jordan got cut once.
Gary Stinnett was told to try again next year twice in his attempts to make the varsity basketball team at Friendsville High School in the late 1970s.
He was ready his junior year. He’d started to grow. In football that fall, he broke his leg, finishing for good, he thought, his chances of ever wearing Falcon blue.
In another year, there wouldn’t be a Friendsville High School.
There are angels, and his was a basketball coach, Stinnett said. Friendsville coach Bill Wallace may have cut him twice, but he was there when it mattered. It would lead, Stinnett said, to one of the funniest and most inspiring moments of his life.
“To me, Bill Wallace is one of the greatest men and greatest coaches to ever walk the courts in this town,” Stinnett said.
After being left off the varsity as a sophomore, Stinnett doubled his efforts. The spring of that sophomore year, Wallace happened across a tall, strangely-familiar kid lighting it up in an intramural game.
“He said, ‘You ought to go out for basketball,'” Stinnett said. “I said, ‘Coach, I did. Two times!'”
Stinnett was a good bet to make the varsity when school opened that fall. He broke his leg in a Friendsville football game on Halloween night.
He wasn’t the nicest kid back then, Stinnett said, but sometimes we catch a break. When he returned to school, Wallace approached him with a promise.
“He said he would keep a spot for me on the junior varsity for when my leg healed,” Stinnett said.
Wallace was true to his word after the Christmas break. In the final year of Friendsville High School, if only for half a season, Stinnett wore a Falcon jersey for the first and only time.
William Blount High School, where Stinnett would finish his career, opened that fall. The legacy of the old Friendsville Academy continues today with Friendsville Elementary.
Stinnett now spends his days as an associate paster/youth paster at First Baptist Church of Maryville. Wife, Rhonda, and he have three children, Haley and twins Hannah and Tyler, all of them, like Rhonda, William Blount graduates.
On Friday nights in the fall, you can find Stinnett behind the microphone in the press box at Mike White Field as the passionate and professional “Voice of the Govs.”
“If you cut me, I bleed orange and blue,” Stinnett said.
Wallace had a lot to do with what he’s done with his life, Stinnett said. He became a Christian before Friendsville closed its doors.
Dotson Memorial needed a youth minister after he graduated from Maryville College. It would only be for a little while, he was told, until they found someone permanent.
“It was 16 years before they found someone,” Stinnett said.
In the interim, Stinnett found a calling. After eight years as a pastor with the congregation at large, he’s returning to a focus on youth ministry this fall.
“I’ve always wanted to be that person to tell kids you can enjoy your high school years and have a lot of fun and do it in a positive way,” Stinnett said.
He loves the Govs as much as anyone, Stinnett will tell you. Maryville’s George Quarles coached at one of William Blount’s fiercest rivals for 18 seasons and was a member at First Baptist. Stinnett and Quarles were close friends, except for one Friday night each fall.
“My allegiance to William Blount has never waned,” Stinnett said. “I tell George Quarles every year, ‘I’m pulling for you this year, in every game but one.'”
It wasn’t the easiest transition from Friendsville to William Blount, Stinnett said. The Falcons and schools like Lanier, two of the neighborhood schools merged to create William Blount, played the Small-Schools division of TSSAA sports. The first ever basketball game at William Blount was against Class AAA Farragut.
“They had one of the Carpenter brothers,” Stinnett said, “and he was 7-foot tall. We go from playing Greenback and Lanier to Farragut and Bearden.”
Stinnett’s broadcasting career got its start at the behest of longtime friend Donnie Moore, former athletics director at William Blount. Stinnett did the play-by-play for Governor freshmen games for a time. When Moore was named AD, he promoted Stinnett’s trademark calls to the varsity. In 1999, Stinnett became only the second public address voice in the 33-year history of Governor football. The other was Moore.
“That was me,” Stinnett said. “I wanted to do that so badly. To me the thing was I got to get in the game free.”
Stinnett possesses a near encyclopedic knowledge of Governor football and a working knowledge of William Blount sports at large. He says he’ll never forget the Maryville/William Blount epic that drew what’s believed a Blount County-record 14,000 fans to Mike White Field a few years back.
“That was the best high school football game I’ve ever been a part of,” Stinnett said. “At 3:45 (p.m.), they (fans) were already getting into the bleachers.”
A Reese McMahan-led group of Governors shocked top-ranked Dobyns-Bennett in the opening round of the state playoffs one year – in Kingsport. There was the game where William Blount rallied in the closing seconds in a stunning reversal at Heritage.
One game towers above them all, Stinnett said: the night the Governors “officially” beat Maryville for the second time in school history.
William Blount had won the 1990 game but was forced to vacate the win when the state athletic association ruled the Governors had used an ineligible player. The win is officially recorded in the archives of both schools as a 1-0 Maryville win. A year later, William Blount exacted revenge, 13-7.
“I remember (then-William Blount coach) Steve Gordon told the team if they won he’d sleep on the field that night on the 50-yard line,” Stinnett said.
It was a pretty cold that night, but there Gordon lay beneath the stars after the game.
His Airness may have gone on to greater athletic glory, but the kid who struggled to make the team at Friendsville all those years ago doesn’t feel he’s missed a thing.