Deserving honor for coach, teacher

Published 10:05 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Two handsome state championship banners hang in Nansemond River’s gymnasium symbolizing part of what Spencer Mayfield Jr. achieved during more than a quarter-century of coaching basketball in Suffolk.

They are two of the four state championships he led teams to. All four state titles together are still just part of what Mayfield gave to his students and student-athletes.

Mayfield’s coaching numbers are easily enough on their own to deserve the honor he’ll receive on Oct. 17; induction into the Virginia High School Hall of Fame in Charlottesville.

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Starting in 1969 at John F. Kennedy High School, Mayfield led the Wolverines and Warriors to 483 wins.

John F. Kennedy won the 1973-74 and 1982-83 state championships. Nansemond River went all the way in 1991-92 and 1994-95. Mayfield led teams to 13 district championships and seven region championships.

Though he retired from Nansemond River in 1997, Mayfield’s reach as a mentor and teacher is also Hall of Fame caliber, and it continues growing.

“As a basketball coach, he’s one of the great ones in our area,” said former John F. Kennedy player Franklin Chatman. Chatman is the head coach at The Apprentice School and coached at Nansemond River and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy before going on to the college level in 2010.

“Coach Mayfield helped many young men, including myself, go on to college, go on to careers,” Chatman said.

On one hand, “he was pretty much a disciplinarian. He was an old-school type of coach,” said Thomas McLemore, Nansemond River’s principal, who was an assistant principal while Mayfield coached and taught there.

“He’d get in a guy’s face, but then give him a pat on the back when it was needed,” McLemore said.

Mayfield graduated from Suffolk’s Booker T. Washington High School in 1959 and graduated from Elizabeth City State. His day job was a technology teacher.

“He related to any kid, no matter where he was. That’s why he reached the kids and got the best out of them. The kids knew he cared about them,” McLemore said.

“He’s a great coach because he cared about kids. He held us accountable and taught us to be men,” Chatman said.

“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of great role models and he’s one,” Chatman said. “He’s part of the reason I continued my education. Then in doing that, I came to want to give back and that’s one big reason I’ve gone into coaching.”

One of Chatman’s Apprentice assistants is Derrick Bryant, who led Nansemond River in its 1992 state championship run. Bryant had an All-American career at Norfolk State and a 10-year professional basketball career internationally.

With Mayfield’s coaching, Nansemond River was a state power in Group AA as soon as the new high school opened. The first Warrior state title came in the school’s second year.

The Warriors beat Northside 85-62 in the 1992 championship game. Mayfield’s teams were 4-0 in state finals, winning by 18 or more points all four times.

“He’s an icon for the whole state of Virginia, and he’s an icon for how he put Suffolk basketball on the map,” Chatman said.