By AL MYATT
Dan Richards is in his 80s now and lives in a retirement home in Lillington, but he still has vivid memories of his days as sports editor at The Daily Record, an era that began in March of 1987.
The award that recognizes the football champion of Harnett County, the Richards Trophy, is named in his honor. Richards recalled the first presentation in 2003.
“I was asked to come to a meeting of the county commissioners and it was a surprise,” Richards said. “To see that trophy was amazing.”
Western Harnett won the inaugural trophy.
Harnett Central held it from 2005 to 2011, an era in which Marc Morris coached the Trojans to the Eastern 4-A championship in 2009.
Richards was frank in some of his recollections.
“Coach Morris was fun to work with,” Richards said. “He cussed a storm, but the kids didn’t mind and he produced winners.”
Morris left for Cleveland and has since coached the program at Carolina Forest in South Carolina.
“Harnett County didn’t have enough money for him,” Richards said.
When Richards first came to the area, Western and Central were not on Triton’s schedule, Richards remembered.
“Triton was in the Cap-Nine (4-A Conference),” Richards said. “They didn’t have the dates to play the other teams in the county.”
Richards said when he first arrived, he had to develop a relationship with Triton athletic director Bobby Tart.
“He didn’t like me at first,” Richards said.
Former Dunn High School football coach Whit Bradham was in the county schools office and helped Richards work with Coach Tart.
Hal Stewart took over the Hawks football program during Richards’ tenure and expectations were high. Stewart had directed Garner to a state 4-A championship in 1987.
“It didn’t work out for Hal,” Richards said. “I liked him. He was always honest with me. He never coached again. Garner and Triton weren’t the same place.”
Richards credited the success of Joe McCullen as Triton coach.
He also recalled other Hawks coaches such as Billy Ray Turner in boys basketball, Brooks Matthews in girls basketball and Dan Honeycutt in softball.
“They said Billy Ray would take a change of underwear, socks and a couple of bags of tobacco to the coaching clinic,” Richards said.
Richards credited Triton coach and athletic director Wendy Simmons with the development of volleyball in the area.
He lamented the passing of former North Carolina High School Athletic Association executive director Charlie Adams.
Richards also recalled a moving and powerful interview with former Triton star Clayton White, who was with the New York Giants of the NFL when the 9/11 attacks took place. White had visited the site where the towers once stood.
Triton boys basketball coach T.J. Morrison visits Richards regularly and contributed to this report.
Dan Richards, former sports editor of The Daily Record, shared thoughts about the trophy bearing his name and other elements of sports history since he came to the area in 1987 from Hickory. Richards is wearing a T-shirt from his college alma mater, Davis & Elkins, which is located in Elkins, W. Va.