Betty Jean and Fletcher: Fork Union honors the Arritts with new basketball court

Photo: Ryan Yemen


If there was one theme coming out of Fork Union’s new basketball court dedication it was about the former Blue Devils postgraduate team coach Fletcher Arritt’s affinity for family, his dedication to promoting teamwork, not individual play. That’s always been his style in a nutshell. So it’s only fitting that all future FUMA basketball teams, all camps, all anything basketball will take place on a brand new floor, now officially named the “Betty Jean and Fletcher Arritt Court” when they walk into Thomas Gymnasium.


“We pretty much go together everywhere so it just makes sense,” Fletcher Arritt said. “I love it. I love this place. I like what (Fork Union has done).”


On Thursday, a gym full of former players under Arritt, current players for the Blue Devils, collegiate coaches and other postgraduate coaches all gathered for a ceremony to honor the former PG coach who retired in 2012 after 43 years of service at the school. Athletic director and Arritt’s son-in-law Brooks Berry and his staff put together a ceremony that included speeches from a pair of former players, Princeton alumnus and current Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson and former University of North Carolina standout and graduate Shammond Williams. Arritt’s former players spoke to their former coach’s approach to diversity, ability to inspire and taking chances on underdog. They also touched on how that is transcending generations as those two have now branched out into coaching since their playing careers have ended.


“He’s not only meant so much to me and my teammates, it has helped others now as well,” Williams said. “He has an impact that rings beyond Fork Union.”


Tom Konchalski, a basketball scout from New York and a close friend of the Arritts spoke and gave a touching example of just how involved the Arritts were in former players lives. After Charles Rogers played for Arritt he moved on to play at Virginia Tech. He returned to Fork Union as a coach years later but eventually found himself with a lengthy struggle with cancer. After it was determined that Rogers could no longer receive further treatment, the Arritts took Rogers into their own home where he finished out his hospice care with the Arritts doing the work and Betty Jean making the funeral arrangements. Rogers’ framed Hokies jersey, alongside so many other former players hangs just above the entrance of the court.


“You know something that makes this whole thing for me?” Fletcher Arritt said. “Those jerseys. Yes sir. I can still tell you about every single one of them.”


That sentiment spoke to the words former Wake Forest coach Mike Odom had. He was the fourth and final speaker in the induction ceremony. He spoke to Arritts impact as a leader and just how much collegiate coaches appreciated his work in preparing athletes for the next level and as young men in addition to the parallels between what he’s seen in hardships and how Arritt, his players and their hard work lives on in the gym regardless of personal presence.  But again, the heavy handed theme for Odom, Konchalski, Johnson and Williams was they all went out of their way to explain the importance to them that both Fletcher and Betty Jean Arritt’s name be on that court.


“The great thing about having Coach and Mrs. Arritt’s name on this court is that years beyond when people come they’re going to ask,” Williams said. “Because of the people they are those great things are going to be said about them.”


For Fork Union as a school, the change to Thomas Gym which was built in 1949 is a part an overall school effort to renovate some of the time-honored places on campus. And for Berry, the athletic director who’s a primary factor in that effort — a man who played for Arritt and is a member of both the FUMA family and Arritt’s family now — the ceremony held a special place in his heart.


“All this hasn’t soaked in yet but in the coming weeks it will,” Berry said. “This event, honoring him, it’s so special. It’s a legacy that I’ve married into. I’ve always said it’s long overdue to have his name on the court. Being a part of this family is a blessing in so many ways.”


And so now whenever a younger player who’s never met the Arritts but plays on the court, it will beg the question, who are they? And with the Arritts often in attendance during games, both prep, postgraduate and in camps, athletes might not know they’re being watched by Betty Jean and Fletcher. But they’ll soon learn what that means.


“For those that don’t know them, it’ll become a topic of interest,” Williams said. “That makes people do the research. Why are their names on a court? Once they learn, they’re going to be pleased about the individuals this place is named after.”


For a humble family man who always kept a piece of chalk in his pocket to coach on a black board, he’s going to have to get used to having he and his wife’s name dried in paint on a new court. The old court had a lot of blood, sweat and tears on it because of their hard work. The new one will too soon as the Arritt legacy continues at Fork Union. Retired? Sure. But the coaching he did isn’t. That’s permanent and always expanding beyond the confines of FUMA.