Douglas Freeman's head coach Larry Parpart and his team applaud the play on the floor against Hopewell during regional play at Freeman in Henrico County VA Mon. Feb. 18, 2013.

In 1978, Warren Carter asked his friend, Larry Parpart, to join him on the coaching staff at Douglas Freeman High School. Carter was the basketball coach, and he was in need of an assistant.

Parpart obliged, came to Freeman and stayed on staff for 40 years. On Monday, he announced he would retire from coaching basketball for the Rebels.

“Hall of fame is an understatement for him,” said Henrico coach Vance Harmon, who played high school basketball under Parpart. “He’s one of the all-time greats. One of the sharpest basketball minds you’ll ever come across at any level.”

Parpart, 73, graduated from Hermitage in 1963. He loved sports his whole life, so he came back to Hermitage and became a coach and physical education and math teacher. He joined Freeman as an assistant in 1978, then became the Rebels’ head coach in 1985.

Freeman won back-to-back Central Region titles in 1995 and 96. That was a rare feat, winning the region two years in a row. It was a competitive tournament, and winning two in a row almost never happened.

Freeman’s Colin Ducharme was named All-Metro player of the year in 1996. He graduated that spring and went to the University of Virginia.

Parpart finished with 536 career wins, but he was never one to seek attention. Instead, he deflected credit to his players – all of them. When the team won a game, it was a great team effort, and never the success of one or two dominant players.

In 2015, the school honored him by putting his name on the floor. The court was dubbed “Parpart Pavilion.”

“I was very honored when that happened,” he said. “It was an extremely special moment.”

Harmon compared Parpart to Dean Smith, the legendary basketball coach from North Carolina. Whether you rooted for or against Carolina, you respected the class and dignity with which Smith ran his program, Harmon said.

“(Parpart) treated his players like his own family,” Hamon said.

There were a lot of little things that were important to Parpart. Any time a player exited the game, the players on the bench would stand up and congratulate him. Now Harmon’s players do the same thing.

Parpart finished with a strong final season – Freeman went 20-4 this past year and lost to Varina, the eventual state champion, in the Class 5, Region B semifinals.

He says he’ll remember the people the most. There were only three athletics directors during his time at Freeman – Jim Sangston, Drew Bright and Suzanne Criswell. They were great friends and great bosses, he said.

“Douglas Freeman is such a great place to work,” Parpart said. “We had a lot of great people who were willing to help you.”

There’s been a recent pattern of retirement or resignation from the area’s coaching greats. Patrick Kane (Hermitage football), David Bedwell (L.C. Bird football), Charlie Dragum (Hanover baseball) and Joe Fowler (Goochland football) all stepped down in roughly the past year.

And basketball coaches aren’t staying as long as they used to. In the 2011-2012 basketball season, there were four coaches in the area who had logged 20 years or more at their school: Bo Jones Sr. of Huguenot, George Lancaster of Highland Springs, Eddie Goss of Thomas Dale and Parpart. Jones and Lancaster each had logged more than 30 years.

But all four have stepped down in the past six seasons. These days, few boys basketball coaches have held their jobs for more than a decade.

“Yes, there has been a great deal of change,” Lancaster said at the time. “There are fewer coaches who have continued to dedicate their lives on a … high school basis.”

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Sports reporter

Eric Kolenich writes sports stories for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, focusing on local athletes and teams. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2008 with a BA in English and joined the paper in 2009. (804) 649-6109

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