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Sullivan East’s Dyer to retire at end of season

Jeff Birchfield • Dec 5, 2019 at 9:17 PM

BLUFF CITY — Sullivan East basketball coach John Dyer announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Dyer, who began his coaching career at Johnson County in 1984, is the longest-serving active coach in Northeast Tennessee. He has coached for 36 years, the last 32 at Sullivan East. He has also served as the school’s athletic director since 2002. The school’s gymnasium was renamed the Dyer Dome in his honor in 2015.

“It’s a bittersweet day. It’s a decision that we made a couple of weeks ago,” Dyer said. “I was going to wait until the end of the season. I held it in and it caused me to be stressed out where I felt like it was affecting me coaching the boys. I’m proud of my team, proud of these boys. They’re as fine a group of young men I’ve had here at East High School.”

The Lexington, Kentucky, native was just 23 and fresh out of playing for Milligan College when he took the first coaching job in Mountain City. He spent four years there before coming to Bluff City in 1999. Despite the Patriots playing against larger schools like Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett most of his tenure, Dyer surpassed the 500-career win milestone in 2016.

“I was fortunate to become a head coach at the age of 23 at Johnson County. The young men I got to coach there, the good Lord couldn’t have put me in a better place,” Dyer said. “To work with a great athletic director, Jim Crowder, and to coach with Rich Aubrey, Skip Matherly and Doug Mitchell was a blessing in itself.

“To come to East and be a part of this family, I counted up 150 young men who played four years for us. What we have shared — the good times and the difficult times — no matter what, we’ve competed and we’ve done our best. We’ve learned lessons to last a lifetime, and that’s what high school athletics are all about.”

Dyer is determined to go out on a high note. He led the Patriots to a 73-50 win over CAK to reach the Class AA state tournament in 2017. Sullivan East is off to a solid 5-3 start this season. While the wins are celebrated, Dyer is more proud of what his players have accomplished once they’ve graduated.

“The wear and tear is amazing, but I have a strong three months left in me for these young men, this school and this community,” Dyer said. “I’ve been blessed to have done this for 36 years, the last 32 at East High School. I couldn’t be prouder of the young men I’ve coached — the husbands, parents and leaders they’ve been in the community.”