Pat Rivers, the first girls basketball coach to bring a state title to Augusta, died Saturday morning.
She was 60.
Rivers led Richmond Academy to the championship in 1997, when the Lady Musketeers defeated rival Josey in the championship game. She retired in 2005 after racking up 338 wins in 24 seasons.
“She pushed us a lot. She motivated us. She made us work harder,” said Natasha Reid, captain of the 1997 team who now works as a special education teacher at East Central Regional Hospital.
“I tried to be laid back, but she pushed me to be a leader. I didn’t see that back then. I’m glad she did.”
In a 2005 interview with The Augusta Chronicle, Rivers said she only planned to coach for five years when she started in 1981 at Richmond Academy. That soon changed, and she eventually became the school’s first female athletic director in 1997.
“I just enjoyed it too much,” she said. “I couldn’t leave.”
The pinnacle of Rivers’ coaching career came in the 1996-97 season. With Reid, who won Class AAA player of the year honors that season, point guard April Steele and forward Quanda Ball, the Lady Musketeers finished 28-2, winning their final 17 games.
With its tenacious half-court press, Richmond Academy rolled to the Region 3-AAA title, with three wins over Josey in four games, including the region championship. In the state tournament, the Lady Musketeers defeated their first three opponents by a 23.6-point margin before meeting Josey in the first all-Augusta finals.
The teams battled back-and forth in the championship until the Lady Musketeers seized control late and pulled out a 71-62 victory. After the game, Rivers said she couldn’t fully enjoy the win because of her friendship with Lady Eagles coach Lynn Brantley.
“Lynn and I are such good friends and I hate that it had to be her and Josey,” Rivers told The Augusta Chronicle. “It is bittersweet because I know how bad Lynn and her players wanted this.”
Winning the state championship and putting together a successful career was just a part of Rivers. Reid said her former coach worked hard to help players get scholarship, driving some to tryouts at various college campuses.
“The most important thing was she was a very inspiring person,” Reid said. “She was more focused on caring for her players than about coaching.”