Carlyle announces retirement as Head Basketball Coach t Walters State

Bill Carlyle came to Walters State in 1977 excited about the opportunity to be the men’s basketball head coach and ready to see what kind of success he could bring to the college. 

Even Carlyle, a native of Bulls Gap, couldn’t have dreamed of leaving a legacy of this magnitude. 

On Thursday, Carlyle, now a Hall of Fame head coach, announced his retirement after leading the Walters State men’s basketball program for the past 46 seasons.

“It comes with mixed emotions, obviously,” Carlyle said. “You don’t do this for 60 years and walk away without any emotion. When I started here, I felt like Walters State was a good spot out of the storm after coaching Division I for seven years. We had great leadership here. Dr. (Jack) Campbell and Dr. (Wade) McCamey were great leaders that cared about athletics. Dr. (Tony) Miksa has been very supportive, as well. I have just been very blessed with a great administration.

“Since I have been here, I had plenty of chances to leave but didn’t want to move my family and I just like Walters State, the administration and the mission. It’s been very rewarding. I feel like we have helped a tremendous amount of good men and made a positive impact on them. That’s what you try and do with this job.” 

While Carlyle has made Walters State his home for almost five decades, that wasn’t the original plan. Carlyle came to the school following four years spent as the top assistant at Oklahoma State.

“When I came here, I said I was going to stay three years and then go back to Division I,” Carlyle said. “But this is home. It was pretty hard once we got back in these mountains to leave. We came from Oklahoma and Iowa and really just wanted to get back somewhere in the south. And lo and behold, we ended up back in Morristown. I could have never imagined.” 

One of the people that saw potential in Carlyle in 1977 was Dr. Jack Campbell. Campbell, now President Emeritus at Walters State, said it was evident from the very beginning that Carlyle was the perfect choice to lead the men’s basketball program.

“When we interviewed Coach Carlyle 46 years ago, we recognized almost immediately that he was the man we wanted to head up our men’s basketball program,” Campbell said. “His past coaching record, his philosophy of coaching, his personal values and characteristics, along with his desire to be at Walters State, greatly complemented the vision we had established for the college, including the athletic program.  

“Over the years he has accomplished and, in many ways, exceeded our expectations. Walters State’s basketball program under Bill’s leadership for the past 46 years has become recognized among the top programs in the nation. Bill is recognized as one of the top coaches in the nation. He has achieved legendary status. Without question, with his loyalty and service to the college and with his unwavering commitment to excellence in his basketball program, and given the strong support from his entire family, Coach Carlyle has had a most successful career at Walters State.”

Carlyle finishes his coaching career at Walters State with a record of 945-428, a winning percentage of 68.8%. His overall head coaching record is 1188-498, while his record is 1307-592 including his stints as an assistant coach at ETSU and Oklahoma State. 

He led the Senators to 12 TCCAA Eastern Division Championships and played in nine Region VII Championships, winning six of them. He made the NJCAA DI Men’s Basketball Tournament eight times.

The Senators won 20+ games 30 times during Carlyle’s tenure and had a 32-win season in 2002-03. In all but one of his seasons as head coach, the Senators finished with a winning record. 

Carlyle was named Coach of the Year 19 times by either the TCCAA or NJCAA. The Senators averaged 20 wins a season under Carlyle and over 200 of his players signed with four-year colleges. 

Carlyle is in the Cumberland College Athletic Hall of Fame, as well as the Tennessee Community College Hall of Fame. He also has the key to the city of Dandridge where January 8 was Bill Carlyle Day. 

Most recently, in 2008, Carlyle was inducted into the National Junior College Hall of Fame during the National Tournament. 

“Coach Carlyle’s legacy is monumental and synonymous with the Senators men’s basketball program,” Walters State President Dr. Tony Miksa said. “While he has earned numerous accolades during his incredible career, including induction into numerous basketball halls-of-fame, I know he is most proud of the impact he has made on generations of student-athletes. I appreciate all of his many contributions to Walters State athletics and to our student-athletes.”

Current Walters State Athletic Director Derek Creech got his start at the school as an assistant on the men’s basketball team under Carlyle. During that time, and his time as athletic director, Creech has seen the impact Carlyle has made on the lives of so many.

“I am grateful to have spent time watching Coach Carlyle from the stands and from the bench,” Creech said. “He is an incredible coach and an even better person. To see everything that he has accomplished over the years, and the way he has built up our men’s basketball program, is remarkable. The most impressive part, however, is the number of lives he has impacted during his 46 years at Walters State. Thank you to Coach Carlyle, his wife Marcia, and all of the Carlyle family for all they have poured into Walters State athletics.”  

A national search will begin immediately for the next head coach of the Senators men’s basketball program.

As for Carlyle’s future, he is excited for another year of his Bill Carlyle Basketball Camp this summer and continuing to give back to the kids in the community. 

“Will I give up basketball? No. It’s embedded in my DNA,” Carlyle said. “This has just been nothing but great memories. I think we have done a lot of good and helped a lot of men. I hope for the city of Morristown and Walters State that we have been positive. That’s what we’ve been trying to do. It’s been very important to me that we have men act and do the things they’re supposed to do.”

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