Har Bell Heritage Hero Coach - Larry Atwood

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Larry Atwood

On June 1st of this year, one of the most noted coaching and teaching careers in the Ozarks during the past four decades came to a close, when Larry Atwood retired from his teaching duties at Southwest Missouri State University.

For Atwood it marked the end to a forty year run that both began and ended at SMS.  A graduate of Willard High School, Atwood served his country with the U.S. Navy in the mid 1950s, then returned to the Ozarks where he graduated from SMS in 1960.

That same year he landed his first teaching and basketball coaching assignment at Weaubleau High School where he spent one season. In 1961 he moved on for the first of three years at Clever High School, and followed that with a four year stop at Buffalo High School where he enjoyed his greatest coaching successes.

Atwood’s Buffalo teams from 1964-68 were considered by many among the best ever in the area, with his 1964-65 team claiming the state class M championship and two years later taking second in the division.

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In 1968 Atwood returned to Springfield and began a 21-year stint at Greenwood High School as head basketball coach and twice in the 1980s had his Bluejay teams in the state final four, finishing second on both occasions.  After leaving Greenwood in 1989, he moved into a full-time teaching position at SMS in the physical education department.

While coaching basketball dominates his personal resume, Atwood also distinguished himself in a variety of other areas.  As a student at SMS, he turned his attention to fastpitch softball, pitching, playing and later managing for the noted Barnes Stores teams of the era.  He also found time to officiate both basketball and football and did so on a regular basis in five different decades, calling on the high school and collegiate level until the mid 1990s.

During thirty years on the bench, Larry Atwood coached in almost eight hundred games, winning more than 500 times.  For that effort, he was named in July of 1989 to a spot in the Missouri Basketball Hall of Fame.  His years of dedication as a game official also earned him a spot in the Missouri Officials Hall of Fame.

From basketball coach to softball star to game night referee, Larry Atwood, during the past forty years, left a definite mark on the sports scene in the Ozarks and for that dedication, BIG SPORTS, this month, remembers his work as our Heritage Hero.

--by BIG SPORTS staff (November 2000)