Throughout his career, Chip Atkins was at the center of a web of the state's most successful and influential basketball coaches.
This week, Atkins is at the heart of their memories. The storied basketball coach died Saturday, at the age of 64, after a long battle with brain cancer.
Atkins, a West Virginia native, taught and coached in South Carolina for more than 30 years, beginning in 1968.
"By the time we met, I considered it a privilege," said Dreher coach Jonathan Richards, who worked with Atkins at Lower Richland from 2002-05.
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"He'd already forgotten more basketball knowledge than I ever had, and he's been a big influence on my coaching since then."
Atkins' high school career took him to Jackson, Allendale-Fairfax, Barnwell and Williston-Elko before he arrived in the Midlands. Along the way, Atkins piled up accolades and achievements.
Atkins, who also coached golf, led his teams to 21 region championships and earned Coach of the Year honors 30 times between the two sports. In 1989 and 1995, Atkins led Barnwell to two boys' golf championships. He left coaching in 1999 but returned in 2002 for what he called his dream job, coaching boys basketball at powerful Lower Richland.
Richards joined the Diamond Hornets staff that same year.
"I kind of lucked into Chip Atkins," Richards said.
Richards said Atkins came to Lower Richland looking for one more chance at the state title
Perhaps the pinnacle of Atkins' career on the basketball court came in 2004, when he led the Diamond Hornets to the Class 4A Lower State championship and into the state title game.
That year the National High School Association named him as Basketball Coach of the Year. The S.C. Athletic Coaches Association honored him as Coach of the Year for the second time (He also won the honor in 1992).
Atkins reached fourth on the all-time wins list among S.C. boys basketball coaches with 637 before his illness forced him to retire in 2007 after five seasons at Lower Richland.
"I'd say the legacy as a basketball coach is the impact you have on your players, and coach Atkins turned out some good ones," Richards said.