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Local basketball icon Jaynes remembered
Former Newton County basketball player Betty Faith Jaynes (center) shares a moment with North Carolina women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell (left) and former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt during a roast of Jaynes in 2010. - photo by File Photo

Former Newton County Basketball standout Betty Faith Jaynes, 68, died Monday, Feb. 10, in Athens after a brief illness.

Jaynes, the first executive director of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, who also coach at Madison College for 12 years, helped lead the Newton County Lady Rams to a 33-1 overall record in 1963, capturing a region title and an appearance in the Class AA state title game in Atlanta during her senior season.

After spearheading the WBCA in its early growth and development, Jaynes became the Chief Executive Officer of the organization that has grown to over 3,000 members since its inception in 1981.

The Newton County icon dedicated her life to advancing the sport of women’s basketball, while affecting thousands of young women who fought for equality in their sport.

Basketball beginnings

Jaynes’ basketball career began when she was a fifth-grader playing the game that would help define her life at the Porterdale Gymnasium under coach B.C. Crowell. Inside the gym, Jaynes learned how to dribble, proper shooting technique and ball handling skills under Crowell.

Despite her talent, she had to convince her parents to let her play basketball. They saw her future being behind a piano and were afraid that she would injure her fingers if she was dribbling and shooting a rubber ball.

Jaynes was successful in motivating her parents to let her play basketball and began her journey. That journey wasn’t a lonely one – she had friend, and future Newton County teammate, Rosemary Laster Powell, by her side as she began learning the game.

During the Lady Rams’ 50th anniversary of their state title run, Jaynes recounted her freshman teammates connecting before their first season and dedicating themselves to the sport.

“When we became ninth graders, we sort of got together and banded together and wanted to be able to one day all start and then get a state championship,” Jaynes told the News. “We sort of committed ourselves to each other that this is what we would do as ninth graders.”

The 1962-63 Lady Rams’ roster boasted six seniors, including Jaynes, and fans in the county took notice of just how talented the group was when they came home with a 53-50 victory over rival Hart County in late February.

With Newton’s success came region honors and accolades, including a region title. Newton reached the state championship game with a 38-29 semifinal victory over Calhoun, but leading scorer Jordye Bailey Cook suffered an injury, leaving her at less than full strength for the championship contest.

Cook scored just 12 points in the Lady Rams’ rematch against Hart County in the title game, falling 50-39. Jaynes and the rest of the Lady Rams were despondent after the loss, but Newton’s fans responded with pride, cheering on the girls upon their return from the championship game.

 “I think the whole town showed up after we came back,” Jaynes said at Newton’s reunion. “(At the gym everybody was) waiting for us to come back and show us how proud they were and how far we’d gone. That made us feel good.”

Jaynes graduated from Newton seven weeks later, continuing her career at Georgia Women’s College, earning her Bachelor of Science in physical education in 1968 and her Master of Science degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro in 1968 in the same field.

Finding her path

After graduating from UNCG, Jaynes searched for her purpose after basketball. Even though her playing career was over, her aspirations were still guided by the small, round leather ball.

Jaynes consulted with college colleague and classmate Ron Bradley, who began his illustrious coaching tenure at Newton County High in 1957.

Bradley recalled the first conversation he had with Jaynes about coaching, as Jaynes’ future began to take shape.

 “When she first started thinking about teaching and coaching, she expressed her desire to me to start in that field underneath the trees at the FFA camp waiting for our volleyball teams to come,” Bradley said. “She said, ‘Coach Bradley, do you think I could teach and coach?’

“I told her that if she did decide to go down that path, she wouldn’t get rich, but she’d have a lot of fun,” he said. “I told her she would have a chance to touch a lot of people’s lives.”

Jaynes took Bradley’s advice, beginning her coaching career two years later with Madison College (currently James Madison University) in 1970. Throughout her college coaching career, Jaynes amassed a 142-114 record in 12 seasons. Jaynes led the Dukes to their first 20-win season during the 1978-79 school year and advanced to the 1974 and 1975 Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Region 2 playoffs.

Jaynes’ most notable highlight during her tenure at Madison College included directing the 1975 AIAW Large College National Basketball Championships, which under her leadership became the first title game sellout in women’s basketball’s modern area.

Blazing her own trail

Unhappy with merely being a successful coach, Jaynes wanted more. Undeterred by the men’s world that she operated in, the Covington native began blazing her own path.

“She wanted to become a better coach, but she couldn’t join the National College Coaches Association because they didn’t let women in at the time,” Bradley said. “She went to Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and Pat asked her what she intended to do.

“Betty decided that she was going to quit and form the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be with her on most of her major occasions in her life, but that was a big decision. It was a resounding decision that changed the face of basketball.”

Jaynes helped establish the WBCA in the early 80s, beginning with a staff in the 200s. Today, the organization promotes women’s basketball by unifying coaches at all levels while promoting the development of the game in all aspects as a sport for women and girls.

The foundation of the WBCA began after a group of women’s coaches met at the 1981 Olympic Festival and in September of that year, the group named Jaynes interim executive director. Jaynes resigned from her position with Madison College at the end of the 1982 season and opened the WBCA’s first offices in Philadelphia in April.

During her tenure, the WBCA awarded its first WBCA Coach of the Year and Player of the Year honors in 1983, helped form the WBCA All-American teams, established the first WBCA High School All-America game and saw the development of the USA Today/ESPN Women’s Basketball Top 25 Coaches’ Poll until her official retirement as CEO in 2000.

Jaynes also served on numerous basketball and women’s committees including the U.S. Girls’ and Women’s Basketball Rules Committee, the USA Basketball Board of Directors, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Executive Committee, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Directors and was the chairperson of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Foundation from 2003-06.

Jaynes was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000 and was honored with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. Jaynes was just the second women ever to receive the honor. In 2007, she was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and a year later received the same honor from the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

The coach that began her career at Newton was awarded with the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and she continued her work with the WBCA as a consultant until her death.

In 2010, Jaynes published a book with current WCBA President Beth Bass entitled, The Butterfly Experience: Healthy Transition in Athletic Hirings, which details the narratives of female coaches in the basketball profession, offering a glimpse into the lives of current and past women’s basketball coaches.

With Jaynes’ revolutionary career complete, Bradley said that what he first told his coaching companion over 30 years ago wasn’t exactly true.

“For a little girl from Newton County, who had to talk her mother and father into letting her play, she has done amazing things,” Bradley said. “To have watched her grow from a little acorn into a giant oak, I’m just in awe. She’s accomplished so much for the people she has touched.

“I guess I told her a lie,” he said. “I told her she would never be rich. But, she is rich. There are thousands of young girls that have dreams because of what Betty did. They may never know her name, but you better believe that her imprint is going to be on the opportunities that they have today.”

Remembering a legend

Jaynes 1963 teammate Kay Coggins said that the news of her teammates death weighed heavy, but Jaynes’ passion for the game would live on.

“Betty Faith had a passion and she followed her passion,” Coggins said. “(That’s) something that a lot of us don’t do for some reason or another. But, Betty Faith didn’t let anything hold her back and, of course, the rest is history.

“The thing about Betty was that she loved people,” she said. “She had a passion about her and a passion about helping women; nothing could stop her.”

Those touched by Jaynes flooded the WBCA’s website Monday with their stories of how the former executive director touched them, while other look to social media to share their thoughts and concerns.

“When you talk about women's basketball, Betty Jaynes' name always entered the conversation,” said Atlanta Tipoff Club Executor Eric Oberman.  She was a visionary and pioneer. While we mourn her loss, we celebrate her accomplishments and her role within the game. She will be sorely missed.”

“I will miss my friend Jump Shot Jaynes,” Summitt said via Twitter. “Glad I was able to spend time with her last week. She made us all better.”

Current University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma shared the same sentiments of Coggins, commenting on Jaynes’ passion.

“Thinking of Betty Jaynes and the 35 (years) that I've marveled at her passion and love for the game,” Auriemma said. “Her smile lit the way for so many of us.”

For all of her accomplishment, Jaynes’ greatest achievement may have been uniting many for a common goal, affecting thousands of women whose lives will be shaped by the game she held so dear.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at The Church at Covington. The family will receive friends at The Church at Covington from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday evening.

“We’re going to miss her,” Bradley said. “She was a great one.”