Russ Frazier was done with basketball. He was a college student at UNC-Wilmington, having thrown away all his gear and had largely ignored the sport for the last year.
So when his father tried to arrange for him to assist then-New Hanover High coach Linc Lyles, Frazier said no.
“I have no desire to be in a gym,” he told Lyles. Five minutes later, Terry Frazier called his son with words Russ would never forget. Terry urged Russ to listen to Lyles.
“You’ll find a career, you’ll find your calling ... I think your brothers have a different calling, I think this is meant for you. This is the family business, and you’ve got it. You need to use that to help someone other than yourself, and along the way you’ll help yourself also.”
Russ Frazier was still against the idea. But he showed up to assist Lyles in a skill development workout with four New Hanover players and was stunned when Lyles put him in control of the full workout and left for football practice.
“I think we stared at each other for about two minutes before I said anything,” he said. “Then after that, I was just addicted to being around them more than the basketball part of it. I enjoyed their company, I enjoyed learning, just the whole nine. ... I haven’t stopped since then.”
On Saturday, he will coach in his third N.C. High School Athletic Association boys basketball championship game, his first since taking over at Leesville Road in 2012. Frazier’s Northwood basketball teams were 2A runners-up in 2009 and 2011 as was his boys soccer team in 2010.
Looking back, he calls the decision to follow his father’s path into coaching easily one of the most important ones in his life.
SON OF A COACH
There was always a practice or game to go to in the Frazier house.
Terry Frazier was the boys basketball coach at Roanoke Rapids for 42 years. He started the boys and girls soccer programs at the school and coached all three – boys soccer in the fall, boys basketball in the winter and girls soccer in the spring – until he retired in 2012.
He won more than 1,200 games across all three sports and was named NCHSAA coach of the year in 2012.
“He had a way of motivating you, scaring you into being successful and loving you all at the same time,” Russ said. “It was unique. I never felt like the coach’s kid. I felt like one of the guys. It taught me a lot.”
Russ and his older brothers Philip and Brian were always around his father’s teams. Russ played soccer and basketball for his father, but prior to that, his mom Peggy would leave him off at practices since he was in elementary school. Brian, the oldest, is the top scorer in Halifax County history with 2,285 points.
Russ, a four-year starter at point guard, isn’t too far behind with 2,111 points himself.
“He grew up in my gym,” Terry Frazier said. “I can take credit for him being a great player, but as far as coaching, he’s made his own way.”
Russ’ team plays a different style than Terry’s, but the groundwork for the program is the same.
“I think genuinely caring about people is a trait that he has. I think he saw that I cared a lot about his friends,” Terry Frazier said. “I think he genuinely cares about his kids – and they know it.”
Russ didn’t see the field in soccer as much as he saw the court in basketball. But by being on both sides of the coin, he saw how consistent his father was at building relationships
“He treated us all as if you were the most important person there,” Russ said. “I felt like my job in practice was important, and it was my responsibility to do what was asked of me for a greater cause than myself.”
Terry downplays his influence: “He’s his own man. All I do is clap for him,” he said.
But Peggy Frazier, family matriarch, sees the resemblance. To this day, former referees will come up and talk to Terry, showing the respect he showed them.
Russ is also a people person, outgoing and talkative – but also fierce in competition.
“Just the way people gravitated to my father was amazing to me,” Russ said. “And now I kind of feel like some people gravitate towards me. I think I have his personality. I love people, I love kids.”
A state championship eluded Terry in his 42 years. His Yellow Jackets teams were very good, but couldn’t quite break through to the title game.
Terry and Peggy will be in the stands on Saturday to support their son as he continues the family business and, perhaps, wins a title for the Frazier family.
“I’m a clone,” Russ said. “Sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve to sit here – my father does. He did this for a long time in the same place, and he goes with me everywhere I go. He’ll be there yelling at me just like everybody else is.”