KINGSPORT — The first years of sports at a consolidated high school can sometimes have mixed results.
But when Sullivan North opened its doors for the first time in the fall of 1980, Golden Raiders fans knew the boys basketball team would be a special one. After all, North featured one of the area’s best players: two-time all-state player Granville Arnold.
Arnold — the youngest of five siblings in his family — starred at center during the Lynn View Lynxes’ substate run the year before when he was a sophomore.
“Granville is one of the best players I’ve ever coached, ” longtime Lynn View and Sullivan North basketball coach John McCrary said. “He was an automatic scorer. At one time, he was one of the national leaders in field goal percentage (.734) and shot 96% from the free-throw line.”
The Arnold home must’ve been a sight to see when sports seasons were in full swing. Rita (Willis), Bill, Tommy, Rodney and Granville were all athletes for both North and Lynn View.
“Everything in the house was competitive, whether it be basketball, darts or board games, ” Granville Arnold said. “Growing up, my older brothers were like my heroes. I wanted to be better than them at everything.”
“All of the Arnolds were great players, ” McCrary said. “Rita was a great ballplayer and was a good track athlete. Rodney was an excellent player and could score from just about anywhere.”
LYNN VIEW’S LAST HURRAH
The Lynxes did not start the 1979-80 campaign well, but McCrary rallied his bunch together late in the season. They reeled off 16 straight wins at one point and made it all the way to the substate.
On March 3, Lynn View fell 71-66 in overtime to Class AA No. 2-ranked South-Young — coached by future Science Hill legend George Pitts — after letting the win slip right through its fingers.
“That game still haunts me and I can remember it like yesterday,” Arnold said. “I went to take a charge and both of us were on the floor looking around for a whistle and nothing was ever called. I felt like we should’ve won the state tournament that year.”
In the waning moments of overtime, Arnold moved in front of Trojans guard Maury Mapes to take a charge, but the officials did not make a call. South-Young picked up the rebound and took a 67-66 lead. Mike St. John then stole the inbound pass to expand the Trojans’ advantage with less than a minute left.
YEARS AT NORTH
Loaded with talent such as Arnold, Scott Johnson and Tim Light, the Raiders were one of the favorites in both the Big 9 and Region I title races in 1980-81.
There was a big road block for North, though: what could have been Buck Van Huss’ best Dobyns-Bennett team ever, led by all-state guard Lee Garber and all-time leading scorer Bruce Tranbarger.
“We had so much talent that year,” Arnold said. “At all of the summer camps that we did, we were beating everyone pretty bad. We even beat that D-B team. We felt like we should be there at the end of the season at 36-1.
“My two biggest nemeses in high school were D-B and South. I hated playing South because I always felt like they were trying to beat me up.”
The Indians rolled through the regular season and reached the regional semifinals against the Raiders. The game was nip and tuck all the way before the Tribe came out on top 56-53 — unexpectedly ending the season for North at 26-7.
“Arnold is a terrific player,” Van Huss said after the game. “It’s hard to keep him under 20 points. John (Gray) got after him pretty good. He’s fantastic at picking up the cutters.”
“I loved playing against those D-B teams,” Arnold said.
North made another deep postseason run in March 1982, advancing to the substate. But the Raiders wound up having to travel to Austin-East after losing to Science Hill in the regional championship game.
The Roadrunners — led by 6-foot-8 center Rob Jones — cranked up their fast-break offense late and won going away, 73-65.
“That’s the year when Don DeVoe signed Rob to play at Tennessee and I wanted to play at Tennessee, too,” Arnold said. “I remember we took a lot of people down there and that’s when they played in that tiny auxiliary gym and it was so loud. They were really good.”
TO TALLAHASSEE AND BACK
Arnold signed on with NCAA Division I Florida State and had two productive years with the Seminoles.
His best game came against Southern Miss in January 1984, when he netted 21 points and hauled down six rebounds.
Arnold transferred to Bristol College in the middle of his junior season.
“I had to compete with one of my assistant coaches at Florida State (Rex Morgan) on everything,” Arnold noted. “There were a lot of things that I didn’t like about him, but he made the game not fun for me anymore.”
Arnold was one of the leading scorers on the 1985-86 Bristol team that won the National Little College Athletic Association national title and finished 30-13.
“My brother Bill was an assistant and he said that if I wanted to come back home that I could,” Arnold said. “We were pretty good and we gave King a great game at the beginning of the season but lost by three (86-83).
“I think we were 24-2 or something before I messed up my knee.”
Arnold became the coach of the college’s women’s basketball team for a season before the school closed in 1994.
“That was an experience,” he said. “We only had seven girls and they were all freshmen. I think we ended up going 6-12 and one of my best memories from coaching happened that season.
“We were down by 20 at Bryan and at halftime I just told them how disappointed I was with them. They started breaking the press and we ended up winning by 20. Me and my two managers actually had to participate in practice every day to play 5-on-5. Those were great times.”
RUNS IN THE FAMILY
Granville’s son Austen was a standout basketball player for Gate City who graduated in 2012. Austen was a first-team all-state selection and made the Times News Elite Team after averaging 22.3 points per game as a senior.
Austen signed to play at Lynchburg College, where he notched over 1,000 points in his career and scored a career-high 41 points against Roanoke in a 160-156 double-overtime win.
Lynchburg was the 2015-16 Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament champions.