Where no one had gone before
ARKADELPHIA—When Alvy Early and Norm DeBriyn were playing fastpitch softball together in the early 1970s, it’s a good bet neither was thinking far enough down the road to envision what happened last weekend.
DeBriyn, who coached the University of Arkansas to 1,161 baseball wins in a 33-year career, held the record for collegiate coaching victories in The Natural State—at all levels—until Saturday. That’s when Early, his longtime friend, passed him.
As what had been a back-andforth softball contest between the University of Arkansas at Monticello and Ouachita Baptist University ended in the Cotton Blossoms’ favor that afternoon, Early racked up coaching win No. 1,162 in 38 seasons with the Kelly Green and White. With that triumph, he became the state of Arkansas’ winningest college coach of all-time.
Not that the patriarch of not only UAM coaches but coaches in the Great American Conference is fi nished, though, by any means. Early’s 2017 Diamond Blossoms still have at least 16 games remaining to be played this spring (14 in the regular season and a pair in the double- elimination GAC Tournament, at the minimum)—and Early won’t even talk about retiring.
Since 1979 (ironically, the same year DeBriyn led the Razorbacks to a runner-up fi nish in the College World Series—Arkansas’ best baseball fi nish ever), Early has been a head coach at his alma mater, fi rst in women’s basketball then in softball. This spring marks his 21st at the helm of the UAM softball program after spending an equal amount of time on the hardwood. For four years, he coached both sports—and served as athletics director at the same time.
He totaled 425 victories as women’s basketball coach, including a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Tournament runner-up fi nish in 1990. Saturday’s softball sweep at Ouachita gave him 737 diamond wins. Twelve of his basketball teams won 20 games or more; 15 of his softball clubs have won 30 games or more. Equally as impressive, Early failed to reach the .500 plateau only seven times.
“I’m sure that at some point I’ll realize what this record means,” Early, ever the coach, said after the four-game series with the Lady Tigers (which UAM won 3-1), “but right now my focus is on Arkansas Tech (University, UAM’s next opponent). There is not time to look at accomplishments of the past. The next opponent is always working to beat you, so you can’t take time to think about what you just accomplished.
“I’m sure breaking the all-time wins record has signifi cance but I’m not caught up in that. We have 14 important GAC (regular-season) games remaining—and my concentration is on how to get this team to fi nish well.” Complete coverage in Sports.