As Henderson State men’s basketball coach, Grady Bean hated to come to Conway.
"Conway was not a pleasant place for me," said Bean, who is now retired and owner of a fitness club in Hot Springs, told the Arkansas Sports Club last week.
"It took kind of a 10-step program for me to recover. Coming to Conway gives me memories of when your mother got a switch and she pulled it off a tree and you ended up hating the tree."
Now, as a quirk of fate, both of Bean’s grandkids live in Conway. A boy is even named Hendrix, "thinks the college was named after him," Bean said.
During Bean’s playing and coaching career at Henderson State in the heyday of the old Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference, he rubbed shoulders with some of the giants in Arkansas coaching, including Conway legends Don Dyer and Cliff Garrison.
He matched wits with seven coaches who won 400 or more games in their careers.
He also played for Dyer at Henderson State.
"I considered myself a shooter but we also had Enos Mitchell, whom I consider the best player I played with or against," Bean said.
"I remember when I first came to Henderson and I was wide open for a shot in one of my first games. Dyer never did cuss; the closest he came for us was ‘hell’s bells.’ He went up to me and said, ‘hell’s bells, don’t shoot.’ But I told him I was open.
"Then, he told me. ‘Don’t get open next time.’"
He saluted Dyer as being in the forefront of integration in basketball in the state. "He didn’t see color," he said.
He turned his attention to Garrison, who was in the room.
"I could not beat coach Garrison and he always made you feel so good about it," Bean said. "He’d beat you 20 and when you got on the bus, he would come up to you and say, ‘you’re not bad; you’re not bad.’"
He said once, the late football coach Sporty Carpenter got on the bus for the trip to Hendrix. "Going home, he told me I was going to need a friend after (Garrison) beat my butt."
He said once Garrison encouraged him after school eating Bean’s Reddies, extending a streak against the Arkadelphia.
"But you’ve beaten me nine times in a row," Bean said.
He said Garrison replied, "But of all the teams we’ve beaten nine times in a row, y’all are the best."
Silver linings in a golden conversation.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or email@example.com)