Austin Clark, head basketball coach at Baylor School for 36 years, announced his retirement from that position on April 5, 2018. He will remain on the school's staff as Assistant Dean of Students.
Headmaster Scott Wilson said the school has not yet begun the search for Clark's replacement. "Next week I will meet with athletic director Thad Lepcio to chart our path for identifying Coach Clark's successor. Right now, we simply want to celebrate him and his incredible legacy."
Clark's tenure ranks second among head coaches in Baylor's history. Only legendary baseball coach Gene Etter, who retired in 2015 after 41 years, served longer. Since his arrival on Baylor's campus in 1982, his brand of basketball – tireless tenacity on defense and patient execution on offense – has been admired by fans and dreaded by opponents in every part of the state. His reputation for fielding tough, competitive teams is widespread and well-earned, while his integrity and sportsmanship have never been questioned. Clark's teams won 522 games while losing 411, qualified for the state tournament 15 times with six trips to the final four, and finished as state runner-up twice. He has been recognized as the Chattanooga area's Coach of the Year seven times and has been a recipient of the Scrappy Moore Coach of the Year award. Clark has also been named a TSSAA A.F. Bridges Coach of the Year and received the TSSAA Distinguished Service Award. He was inducted into the Baylor Sports Hall of Fame in the fall of 2017.
Clark served as Baylor's athletic director from 1990-2006, presiding over a 16-year period in which Baylor teams won 102 state championships. During his tenure, Sports Illustrated magazine named Baylor's athletic program the best in Tennessee and number 23 in the nation. In 1993, Chattanooga Mayor Gene Roberts awarded Coach Clark a key to the city and a certificate for Outstanding Contributions to the City of Chattanooga.
"I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of the Baylor family," Clark said. "The students, faculty, staff, and alumni make Baylor the greatest place in the world to work. I'd like to thank (former headmaster) Dr. Herb Barks for the opportunity he gave me 36 years ago. I've always had great support from administrators including (present headmaster) Scott Wilson, who was an assistant coach with me back in the 1980's, and other colleagues like Bill Cox, who has been an assistant coach with me from my very first year. But my wife, Cindy, has always been the greatest supporter of my coaching career, beginning at MTSU and all through these years at Baylor. My daughter, Logan, and son, Jordan (who played for and later coached with Clark), have also always been in my corner."
Even as competitive as he is, Clark has always emphasized the building of character in his players over the importance of winning, quipping, "You win more with character than with characters. I've had so many kids play for me over the years that have meant so much," Clark continued. "I hope that they remember me as a coach who was fair and who taught them more about life than about basketball."
"Talking about Austin Clark and all that he means to Baylor and to me is difficult," added Wilson. "There are few people who are living legends, but he is one of them. I was privileged to be with Austin and Bill Cox at the very beginning of Coach Clark's tenure at Baylor, and I watched him transform Baylor basketball into one of the most respected programs in the state. For 36 years, he led Baylor basketball with integrity, passion, expertise, and a total commitment to his players and their growth as young men. This is the end of a remarkable era. I am deeply sad that it's over, but so happy for him to be able to turn the page in his life and career. There will never be anyone quite like Coach Clark."