RACHEL, W.Va. – After 13 seasons in charge of the North Marion High School boys basketball team, and nearly-20 more years of being invested in the game of basketball prior to that, Huskies head coach Chris Freeman has decided to step away from the game of basketball.
“The last couple years I’ve been thinking about it a little bit,” Freeman said. “32 years, and never having a Thanksgiving break, or a Christmas break, or anything like that is a long time.”
“I thank the North Marion community, they’ve been great. I’ve always wanted to give back to the school that I went to school,” Freeman continued. “I think we’ve done a good job as a basketball program, and made ourselves respectful around the state, around the Big Ten, and I’m sure the next guy will do the same thing.”
He now shifts focus from studying film and coaching the game that he says has taken him to places that he otherwise never would’ve been, to taking care of family, including his three children, and being able to go trout fishing whenever he can.
“I just felt like it was time for me to spend a little bit more time with them, and enjoy some other things besides the game of basketball,” Freeman said. “As young as (my children) are now, they’re just now starting to get into activities, I just felt like It was a good time to step away.”
Freeman says he started playing basketball in the second grade, and has been invested in it ever since.
He played from second grade through high school, playing under former WVU great Warren Baker, to then playing and immediately coaching as an assistant at Fairmont State University. He then spent two years as an assistant at East Fairmont High School, one year as a head coach at Hundred High School, and then returned home to Rachel for 13 seasons as the leader of the program he played for.
“(Basketball) has taken me all over the place,” he said. “I got to see places that I probably would’ve never seen, and I’ve gotten to meet a lot of wonderful people. I think that’s what I’ll probably remember and cherish the most.”
Freeman credits his Baker as the one that got him into coaching.
Freeman’s head coaching record on the Husky Highway is 139-138 — marking the most wins in program history. Freeman collected his final win in the sectional tournament over Oak Glen. He and his team were getting ready for the chance to secure win No. 140, and a trip to the state tournament, when COVID-19 shut down the girls and boys state basketball tournaments.
“I knew we had a good team this year. I knew we had a good chance to get to the state tournament, and hopefully do some things once we got there” Freeman said. “I truly believe that we would’ve got there. So, I guess the unknown that, I can live it no matter how I want it to live out. So, in my mind, I believe that we would’ve got there and we would’ve played some games in Charleston and had some success.”
“It’s really tough on me with the boys.”
Freeman and the Huskies went 19-5 this season, winning their first 11 games of the year. When the season ended, they were awaiting the start of a regional co-final game against Keyser which, with a win, would’ve given the Huskies their first state tournament berth since 2013.
The now-former head coach not only ranks first all-time in wins as a Huskies head coach, but ranks 10th all-time in NMHS boys basketball scoring history. He was passed this season by senior Gunner Murphy, who moved into second place on the scoring list.
Freeman is still listed as one of the coaches for the annual North-South all-star basketball game, which has been moved to July 10.
On the way to his parents house, where he has been tasked with working on their deck, Freeman said there’s the chance he could return to the game again down the road. He’s given so much of his life to it, it’s only natural that he’ll get the ‘itch’ back sometime soon.
“One day I may get back into it, when my kids get a little bit older. I’m sure if they want to play sports and activities I may want to try to coach them,” Freeman said. “And if the opportunity presents itself down the road I may get back into it.”
Freeman will continue teaching at North Marion. So he’ll see the Huskies players in the hallways and in class. And even though he’ll be teaching students all day, he says the teaching the game of basketball to players is what he’ll miss the most.