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Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

Winning tradition

Saturday, March 24, 2012

(Photo)
Charleston head coach Danny Farmer directs traffic on Saturday during the Class 3 state championship at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
Farmer continues to produce winners

sports@standard-democrat.com

CHARLESTON -- Very few coaches have accomplished what Danny Farmer has.

Especially working in both boys and girls basketball.

Charleston's head coach has produced time and time again throughout a nearly 30-year career and he's done it within an area separated by just 23 miles.

He started one of the most dominant girls programs in Southeast Missouri history, at one point, and kept 'The Factory' running for 17 years.

His 10 years at Scott County Central as the girls head coach produced five state championships, which included three in-a-row. He also guided the Bravettes to eight final fours during those 10 years.

"You get in your mind that the only success that you have is when you go to state and win a state championship," said Farmer.

Farmer credits a lot of his knowledge from Scott Central's legendary head coach Ronnie Cookson.

While Farmer was there, he served as an assistant coach under Cookson while the Braves strung together seven-straight state championships from 1985 to 1991.

"It was tremendous," Farmer said about his time at Scott Central. "Coach Cookson is a legendary coach and he was like my mentor. I learned everything from him. You couldn't go wrong."

While Farmer helped Cookson, the boys head coach returned the favor.

Every year each coach took roles as the other's assistant.

"He was the best assistant coach that I've ever had," Cookson said. "He really done a good job. I just really enjoyed working with him."

Farmer won championships with the girls in 1985, 87 and 91-93. In 1992, the Bravettes went undefeated at 29-0. Scott Central went to eight final fours. They also finished second, third and fourth.

"We had two winning programs and when you have that, one motivates the other," Farmer said. "It was just tremendous, once we got rolling."

His girls teams were just as dominant as the famous Braves team were, winning state championship games by as much as 47 points.

"It was a mirror image," Farmer said about both the boys and girls programs. "We played the same style and the same pace. We pressed in our defense and we used it as an offense also. There were just so many similarities."

Scott Central, who never lost a conference game in 10 years under Farmer, returned to the state tournament just once following his tenure. Their only return was in 1995, the year after Farmer left, taking second.

"I can't say enough about him," Cookson said. "He was great to work with -- absolutely great. He done a great job with the girls. He's always a contender every year and it seems like he always does things right."

Farmer traded one winning program for another latching on as an assistant at Charleston High School.

Farmer served under then head coach Bobby Spencer for three years before taking over as head coach in 1998, when he went 22-6.

"I sure hated to see him leave and go to Charleston but I was in support of him doing it," Cookson said. "I knew he'd do a really good job over there."

Although the tradition and passion for winning was the same, Farmer took his new position as a way to learn how to win in a different way.

"I went from one great program to another," said Farmer. "That was another great experience. Learning is a great experience. I went from one system to another where you learn a man-to-man defense after coming from a zone defense. But, the same results came."

Although he began his time at Charleston with a 22-6 record during his first year, Farmer had three years of growing pains to go through.

The next two years ended with records of 13-14 and 16-11. The Bluejays improved to 17-12 during the 2000-01 season.

Following a 20-9 record during 2001-02 season, Charleston got rolling. Beginning in 2003, the Bluejays strung together five straight trips to the final four.

"Danny's one of those guys that I respect the most," Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield said, who was one of the area coaches who has faced Farmer coached teams the most. "He's just been around such winning programs and traditions and that speaks so well for him to be able to maintain the high-level of play. That's so impressive -- just the winning years and the programs he's been around."

Charleston won third place twice, second place twice and brought home their 10th state championship in school history in 2007 with a record of 29-3.

During that five year stretch Farmer and Charleston had a record of 130-29.

"There's always pressure," Farmer said. "I think it's self-inflicted pressure more than anything because you do want to win because you know that those programs want you to win. Once you get to rolling and start winning, you don't even think about the pressure."

A graduate of Charleston High School, Farmer has a career coaching record at his alma mater of 324-121. Farmer was part of a 31-1 Bluejay team in 1977. After high school, he attended the University of Missouri-Rolla before transferring to Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff. He graduated from Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. in 1983.

"His teams always play extremely hard. But, more importantly, he's a great person," Holifield said. "Any time you go against Danny's teams you know how difficult it's going to be. In my opinion, his teams play as hard against our teams as any team that we go against.

"I know how hard it is going against Danny and I don't look forward to it," Holifield joked.

After three years of not reaching the final four Charleston returned last season, taking a disappointing third. The Bluejays lost to the eventual state champions, Hogan Prep, during the semifinals.

They returned the favor this season defeating Hogan Prep 79-73 for their 11th state championship and Farmer's second as Charleston head coach.

"This year, after getting third last year, winning it like we did kind of put the finishing touches on it," Farmer said. "Because, we felt like we could have won the final game (last season) To come back and do it and not slip up, because it's so hard to get there, is great. When you get there, a lot of people take it for granted."

And although he finished this season on top, some would think it would be a good time to end his Hall of Fame career.

Not Farmer.

"We're going to try and do it again," Farmer said. "I'm planning on coming back."