George Lynch at the Roanoke Valley Sports Club. Courtesy of Doug Doughty.

More than 30 years after leading Patrick Henry High School to a state basketball championship, George Lynch needed no introduction to many in the near overflow crowd this week at the Roanoke Valley Sports Club.

 Lynch played collegiately at the University of North Carolina and was a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1993 NBA Draft. After four seasons with the Lakers, he spent time with Vancouver, Philadelphia, Charlotte and New Orleans.

George Lynch. Courtesy of William Turner.

He spent 12 years in the NBA, including seven years with Memphis after the franchise had moved from Vancouver. He played a total of 203 games in Los Angeles, 203 with New Orleans and 200 in Philadelphia.

In the process, he scored more than 5,000 points.

Times have changed since Lynch’s collegiate days at North Carolina, where he played in a total of 140 games spread over four seasons and scored a total of 1,747 points.

Nowadays, college players of Lynch’s stature are eager to turn pro before the end of their college eligibility.

“It’s hard today to recruit kids,” Lynch said. “I was in college basketball for a while. I worked with Russell Turner. It’s challenging to recruit top-level players and have them stay in school.”

Turner, who was on Patrick Henry’s championship team, played collegiately at Hampden-Sydney and has been the coach at California-Irvine since 2010. 

Lynch later served as an assistant at Southern Methodist and was the head coach at Clark University, a Division 2 program in Atlanta, where he was 28-28 from 2018-2020. 

“I remember Dean Smith when he recruited me,” Lynch said of his college coach. ” He didn’t promise me any playing time. He told me, ‘You come here, you work hard and you’ll have an opportunity to play.’

“Nowadays, kids are like, ‘I want to be a starter, I want to play this position.’ “

A questioner reminded Lynch of a time 20 years ago when he called Joe Gaither, known by many for his dedication to inner-city basketball, and had him take a group of youngsters to Philadelphia, where Lynch took them on a tour to Constitution Hall and the Liberty Bell.

Lynch spent his final year of high school at Flint Hill, a prep school in northern Virginia, where the coach was, Stu Vetter, who had recruited the likes of Dennis Scott and Randolph Childress, who became standout players at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

Lynch, who works for a non-profit in the Charlotte area, has not forgotten his Roanoke roots and accepted an invitation from one of his Patrick Henry coaches, Woody Deans, to speak Monday night.

Deans was the head coach at Patrick Henry when the Patriots won the 1988 state championship in Group 3A when that level was “the big boys,” as Deans described it Wednesday.

Deans was preceded as Patrick Henry’s head coach by Dick Kepley, who was a member of the North Carolina basketball team from 1957-61.

“I remember seeing him and Bill Guthridge, who was a Carolina assistant to Dean Smith at the time,” Deans said. “They came up to watch [Lynch] play at the time, so Dick had something to do with it as well.”

Deans had the pleasure of watching the 1993 NCAA championship game in New Orleans when Lynch, a Carolina co-captain, was a senior and had his fourth straight double-double (points and rebounds) as the Tar Heels beat Michigan 77-71 for the title..

“The older I get, the more important my past is to me,” said Deans, who played golf with Lynch on Monday at Hanging Rock in Salem. “The more of these kids I know, the more I try to stay in touch with. It’s a real thrill to reconnect and see them again. “

“I asked [board member] Dave Ross if he thought George would be an enticing speaker. Then, I called George, threw out a date and George said, ‘Yeah, I can make it. I’ll be there.’ 

“He said he always liked the question-and-answer sessions because he had some great stories about Michael Jordan. It was right up his alley.”

Doug Doughty

Doug Doughty has been writing for more than 50 years starting as a high school student in Washington, D.C., through his undergraduate years at the University of Virginia, and 47 years at the Roanoke Times...