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story.lead_photo.caption Charles Ripley ( Cary Jenkins)

Charles Ripley had no children of his own, never married and was an only child. But the former Little Rock Parkview coach wound up being a father figure to many athletes over a long career.

Ripley, who coached Parkview to five boys state basketball titles, died Sunday. He was 74.

Ripley turned Parkview into a national basketball powerhouse in the early 1990s. The Patriots finished 35-1 during the 1991-92 season and were ranked as high as No. 4 in one national poll.

"The big thing with Rip is that he treated us all like his sons," said Russellville girls Coach Ryan Koerdt, who played for Ripley in 1997-98 at Westark Community College, now the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. "And we learned to treat each other like brothers. He would get on to us equally, and he would love us the same way."

Ripley spent 27 years in the Little Rock School District, taking over as Parkview's boys basketball coach in 1974. He compiled a 487-152 record at Parkview and advanced to the state championship game in 10 of his final 12 seasons.

"When you played Parkview, you knew you were going to play a well-prepared team," former Little Rock Hall coach George Cirks said. "It was always exciting. They always played hard. What you hoped for was that you would win one of those games every once in a while."

After winning his final state title in 1995, Ripley was hired as the head basketball coach at Westark.

When Parkview graduate Keith Jackson retired from professional football and created the P.A.R.K. program for children from low-income families, Ripley returned to Little Rock to run the gymnasium for Jackson. Ripley also became the athletic director and men's basketball coach at Arkansas Baptist College.

He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.

"He wasn't so much an X's and O's type of coach," Koerdt said. "He was all about playing hard. He had a very sharp mind, and he didn't forget anybody. He changed a lot of lives. He's a legend."

"Coach Ripley would help those kids in any way he could," Cirks said. "He lived for those kids. He'd give them the shirt off his back."

Ripley did not play sports in high school, but he stayed close to the games by serving as a manager for Little Rock Central's basketball team.

"I was a short, fat kid who couldn't play the radio," Ripley said in a 2019 interview. "So I had to coach instead."

Ripley said he knew at age 10 that he wanted to be a coach, and while attending what was then Little Rock University, he worked his way up from youth basketball to the Little Rock School District as a junior high coach, winning city championships with his first two teams a Forest Heights.

When Ripley took over at Parkview in 1974, the Patriots had won only a handful of games the year before. They weren't expected to do much with the small, young team he inherited, but Ripley immediately made the Pats competitive against the city's more powerful Central and Hall programs.

In 1978, Ripley and the Patriots took home their first state title, with future Razorback Keith Peterson leading the way.


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