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Retirement treating legendary Bucs coach Warren well

Joe Avento • Aug 25, 2019 at 2:00 PM

JOHNSON CITY — Most people retire to play golf and travel. Fred Warren has retired from golf and travel.

The legendary East Tennessee State golf coach is in the middle of his first summer of retirement, and so far the time off has suited Warren well.

“I think I was prepared for it because I was thinking about it for a while,” Warren said. “I appreciate having more free time. To coach full time requires a lot of time and energy. As I got older, some of the energy was not quite the same.”

A dinner celebrating Warren’s illustrious coaching career, which spanned 41 years — 33 at ETSU — will be held Tuesday night at Greene Stadium. Named after local banker Bill Greene, one of Warren’s closest friends and the program’s biggest supporter, it’s a fitting venue.

“I’m still a coach because it’s part of my makeup, but I enjoy having the free time,” Warren said. “I’m not preparing to start my 42nd year in coaching.”

Traveling has been a big part of Warren’s life for as long as he can remember. These days, he’d rather spend time at home with his dogs when he’s not volunteering or serving on the boards for various animal-welfare groups.

One year he was away from home at least three days for 42 weeks.

For sure, home is where Warren’s heart is.

“Growing up in a military family, I went to a different school every year,” he said. “Then when I was in the military, four years in the Marines, I traveled. In coaching you’re always traveling or getting ready for your next trip. That’s why it’s a little different for me.”

Warren was hired at ETSU in 1986 to restart a program that had been idle for three years. Within 10 years, he had the Bucs ranked No. 1 in the country. They finished third in the NCAA Championship that year, 1996.

Along the way, ETSU won 17 conference championships and Warren was selected conference coach of the year 12 times, 10 in the Southern Conference and two in the Atlantic Sun.

Warren, who says his players deserve the credit for all of his accomplishments, admits he hasn’t taken time to sit back and reflect on his career just yet.

“To be honest, I haven’t,” he said. “It may take a while. Coaches, including me, you kind of think about some of the things you should have done.

“When I was cleaning out my office, though, I thought, ‘We were good for a long stretch.’ ”

The cherry on top of Warren’s career came last October when ETSU won its home tournament, the Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate at Blackthorn Club. It was a tournament Warren was instrumental in starting and his teams came excruciatingly close to winning several times only to come up short.

Finally, in his last attempt, the Bucs got it done. It was probably the biggest victory in the career of a coach whose ETSU teams won 55 tournaments.

“Almost destiny,” said Warren, a member of the Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame. “That was fitting. It almost was a sign to me that this was the right time. Over the years we probably could have won it, should have won it, three or four times.

“That actually gave me a little peace that it’s a good time to leave.”

The 67-year-old Warren said he had been planning to step away for a couple of years and last year, he definitely knew it was time.

“I can go to sleep at night knowing I did my best,” he said, “and I can safely say I left the program better than I found it.”