The toughest part of any year is coping with the loss of loved ones. Two great area coaches passed away this year: Dan Honeycutt and Sam Bell.
Dan Honeycutt died May 15 in a tractor accident on his farm. He was 68. Honeycutt grew up in Coats and graduated from Coats Union School in 1968 and returned to Coats Union to teach agriculture and coach softball. Honeycutt was the winningest softball coach in the state during his years at Coats Union.
Later, he became principal of Triton High School and also coached the Hawks’ softball team. Under his tutelage, Triton won 11 conference championships and made 12 state playoffs appearances.
Honeycutt had an impact on many people in the community, but perhaps none more than the Coats IGA men’s softball teams. Honeycutt put the team together in the 1980s from a group of students in his agriculture classes. Those teams dominated local leagues throughout the decade. Just six days before Honeycutt’s death, the group reunited for the first time, sharing memories about the good old days.
“Dan Honeycutt did an amazing job,” said Robert Pleasant, one of the former Coats IGA players. “[He] was the one who was able to manage and keep everybody satisfied and happy.”
Sam Bell died Sept. 7 at Duke University Medical Center. He grew up in Godwin and taught in Harnett County schools for over 30 years. He started teaching at Lafayette High School in 1975 and coached the track and field team for two years. Then the school was dissolved into Harnett Central High School, where he continued to teach and coach for more than three decades. He also coached cross country for four years and served as an assistant on the football team for 29 years.
Bell’s teams performed very well over the years, but he was never one to take much credit. Instead, he’d praise the athletes he felt lucky to coach. He was so passionate about coaching that he continued to do so three years after retiring from teaching in 2007. Even as his health dwindled, he still did everything he could to help the program and was a big part in getting the school a new track facility.
“I am unapologetically thankful for the interaction he had in my life,” said Nicole Hudson, a former Harnett Central high jumper who now coaches at UNC. “Part of being a great educator and coach is, you get to live forever through the lives of the people you touch.”