Taft M. Watson
On March 12, 1994, Taft M. Watson accomplished something remarkable even by his on lofty standards of excellence. The basketball teams that he coached won statewide titles on the same day. Watson led Terrell’s Bay High School to the state Class A girls’ title with a 43-30 win over McBee. He then guided his boys’ basketball team to a 48-48 victory over Williston-Elko. South Carolina’s winningest basketball coach was born on December 23, 1921, in Horry County, South Carolina. His love for basketball can be traced to his school years. He played on the Mullins Area school team between 1937 and 1940 and on the Benedict College team in 1940. Taft has coached basketball for 47 years. Thirty-eight of those years have been at Terrell’s Bay High, located in a tiny South Carolina hamlet and bearing the address Centenary, “You can only find us if you get lost,” says Watson. Watson retired in 1989 to spend more time with his ailing wife. After her death, he was lured back to Terell’s Bay as Athletic Director and Girl’s Basketball Coach. Basketball has always been a way of life at this high school. There is no football team and basketball has helped to sustain the school. Before his retirement, Watson coached boys’ and girls’ basketball and had 1,200 career victories. As a result of his outstanding record, he was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. Of his induction, Watson explained, “This was the wildest, weirdest thing. I never dreamed that it would happen. What happened here was almost too much to stand. I don’t suppose too many of those people know me, but the ovation I got was really something.” By 1995, Coach Watson’s boys’ teams had won 16 conference championships and his girls’ teams had won 19. He has captured 7 state championships, the boys winning twice and the girls five times. his strategy of winning requires focus and dedication. “I keep telling my players that it’s us against the world. There are bigger schools and better gyms. We still play in the same place and our enrollment is 232. We have been through a lot of consolidation and we still play winning basketball,” explains Watson. In addition to coaching basketball, Watson is an outstanding leader in his community. His achievements include initiating the organization and fund drive for the Centenary Community fire department. He is a character member of the Marion-Dillon County Drug and Ascoho Commission, a member of Mullins’ Bi-Racial Committee, a member of the Mullins Planning Commission, and chair of the Board of Decons of Mt. Olive Baptist Church. His honors and awards include a street leading to Terrell’s Bay High School being named Taft Watson Boulevard and the gymnasium at Terrell’s Bay being named Taft Watson Gym. He has been featured in the State, The Greenville News, Florence Morning News, and Sports Illustrated. Watson’s achievements prove that it is not the size of the school or the population of a community that determines success. It is instead, the willingness of leaders to teach and those who learn to apply those skills not only to the gratification of winning a basketball game but also to their goals in life. South Carolina’s winningest coach has touched the lives of many young people and has inspired them to be the best in whatever they attempt to do.