Early in the previous decade, when I was still a high school girls basketball coach, my Heritage team played at Newton County. We were seven down with 35 seconds left, but somehow came back and won the game. Afterward, Ram boys coach Ronald Bradley asked me to make a special presentation to former Newton girls star, Betty Faith Jaynes.
My son, Jackson, who was my team manager and now coaches high school girls basketball himself, was mystified. He asked, “Daddy, why did you present an award on the other team’s floor?
“Because we’re family,” was my response.
That’s the way I felt. I had known Betty Faith Jaynes all my life. When I was a little boy we would go and watch her play high school basketball for dear old Newton High. She was always my daddy’s favorite, which made her my favorite. She had worn the purple and gold of B.C. Crowell’s Porterdale Eagles, after all. Betty Faith played guard, back in the days when girls played six on six and guards were forbidden to cross the midcourt line. Daddy often compared her to a windmill because of the peculiar habit she had of doing circles with her left arm as she pushed the ball up the floor.
Betty Faith almost missed out on basketball, however. Her mother, Ruth, was afraid that it would interfere with her piano lessons. B.C. had to convince Mrs. Ruth that she could do both. I don’t know at what point she gave up the piano, but the music world’s loss was the sports world’s gain.
But basketball wasn’t the only tie that bound Betty Faith and me. Her parents were long-time caretakers of Salem Campground and my family would often have dinner at the hotel during camp meeting. I looked forward to those dinners because Betty Faith, who was a teenager when I was still a little boy, would always come over to the table and pick at me. She was also a lifeguard and pool manager at the Porterdale pool, where I swam every day during the summer — along with every other little linthead in town.
I wish I knew how many times she set me up at the concession stand when I was a nickel or dime short. She taught me to love Zero candy bars — which were white on the outside.
Betty Faith went on to play college basketball and then became a college coach. When she tried to join the basketball coaches association they turned her down because she was a woman. Undaunted, she took it upon herself to start an organization for women coaches. The WBCA was dedicated to unifying coaches of women’s basketball on all levels and promoting the game in any sort of positive light possible.
She became the long-time CEO of that organization and remained a consultant even after she retired. There are few people more respected in the women’s basketball community. When you turn on the television and see a women’s game being broadcast — that is, in large part, Betty Faith. When you see that the Women’s Final Four is playing to a sold out arena, that is, in large part, Betty Faith. When you read that women’s coaches sign six-figure contracts, that is, in large part, Betty Faith.
And when you visit the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee — one of the first plaques you see is dedicated to Betty Faith Jaynes — or Betty, as they all knew her. Yes, she was really something special.
Betty Faith passed away Monday at about 5:30. I knew the news was coming but dreaded it nonetheless, because no matter how high she climbed on the national level, CEO Betty Jaynes was always just Betty Faith to me. I looked forward to seeing he and her sister Peggy Jaynes Moss whenever I could. We all shared a common background, a love for the Georgia Bulldogs, a love for Salem Campground and a love for life.
Betty also loved Porterdale and was a part of the group that was determined to save the burned out Porterdale gymnasium from the wrecking ball. A few springs ago she was responsible for one of the greatest nights in Newton County history when Pat Head Summit, Robin Roberts and a host of national celebrities roasted Betty Faith at a hundred-dollar-a-plate dinner, with all the proceeds going to the gymnasium fund.
I spoke to her sister, Peggy, briefly on Monday, before final arrangements had been made for Betty’s funeral. She was heartbroken, of course, but also certain that her sister is now in a better place. The rest of us, however, are in a world that is not quite as good a place, because the world was much better with Betty Faith Jaynes among its citizens than without her.
She leaves a giant legacy, however, and whenever a talented young girl has the opportunity to further her education through playing basketball, or to play in a giant arena or to compete on television — or to pursue a career in the game she loves — well, that is, in large part, Betty Faith.
We will all miss you my dear friend. May you rest in peace.