Like most retired coaches, Ron Rippy loves to walk down memory lane and talk about the players, the games and the atmosphere.
He even enjoys reminiscing about practices.
The former Ozark Lady Hillbillies basketball coach, who guided the school to three state titles during a remarkable 19-year run, was inducted into the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame last week. He joined Fort Smith native Gus Malzahn (Shiloh Christian and Springdale football), Glenda Patterson (Jonesboro Westside volleyball), Gene Simmons (Murfreesboro track) and Herbert Williams (Brinkley basketball) in being inducted at Friday’s banquet at the Hot Springs Convention Center.
“I miss being around the kids and believe it or not I miss the practices,” Rippy said. “I really enjoyed teaching.”
A Charleston native, Rippy spent five seasons at Greenbrier and two more at Clarksville before taking the job at Ozark in 1985 — which was then a much-maligned program that started the 1983, ‘84 and ‘85 seasons with different head coaches.
The program began to blossom behind players such as Penni (Peppas) Burns, Tieka and Stacia Leding, Sarah Pfeifer, Jennifer Goodwin and Kendra Beard.
Burns said the program wouldn’t be where it is today without Rippy’s influence. He helped start the school’s youth program and made sure the old gym — which now serves the junior high — was always open.
“He was very calm and stayed calm, and that helped you stay calm,” Burns said. “He seemed to always be in control. If you worked on it in practice, you would stay calm during the games. He also made sure your grades were good — he represented you and he expected you to represent him.”
Pfeifer, who led Ozark to the state championship game three consecutive seasons in the early 2000s, credits Rippy with helping her become a good coach. Pfiefer was recently named the head junior high coach at Springdale Lakeside.
“I’m a pretty calm coach and I think most of that comes from him,” Pfeifer said. “He was always prepared. He would only give us as much as we could handle. He knew so much basketball, but he only told us what we needed to know so we wouldn’t overthink it.”
Rippy was a calming effect in 2000, Pfeifer said, when Ozark won state for the second time. The Lady Hillbillies first won it in 1998.
“We were playing Prairie Grove in the finals of my sophomore year and we were down 10 at the half,” she said. “I can’t remember what he said, but we could tell he had all the confidence in us. That was fun, to be dominated in one half, then overcome that deficit and win that first state championship (I was in).”
Pfeifer said she didn’t realize what she had in high school until she began playing at the University of Arkansas.
“He had so much basketball knowledge,” she said. “He was a great teacher of the game and I realized that when I got to college.”
Ozark won state again the following year and reached the title game again in 2002 and 2004. But by the time the Lady Hillbillies reached the 2004 state title game, however, the then 54-year-old Rippy felt like it was time to retire.
“I really can’t explain it, I just knew the time was right,” Rippy, now 63, said. “We had grandchildren coming and that was a huge factor. I didn’t want to miss seeing my grandkids.”
Bret Nagel, who served as Rippy’s assistant before being promoted head coach in the summer of 2004, still marvels at Rippy’s attention to detail.
“About everything we do is based on his success,” Nagel said. “We are still running a form of the same motion offense he ran.”