With Son Rising, Potomac's Hayes Calls It a Day

Hayes, here conducting practice in 2002, said he is stepping down to allow himself more time to focus on son Eric's college career at Maryland.
Hayes, here conducting practice in 2002, said he is stepping down to allow himself more time to focus on son Eric's college career at Maryland. (By L. William Kobelka For The Washington Post)
By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 5, 2006

There were bigger wins over the next two decades, but Kendall Hayes fondly remembers one of his first significant victories as the Potomac boys' basketball coach, from his inaugural season in 1985-86.

"We beat Gar-Field the first time we played them, at Gar-Field," Hayes recalled this week. "[Former Potomac activities director] Jim Qualls made me feel like I was the mayor of Dumfries after that one. That was fun."

Eldridge Kendall Hayes III has been firmly entrenched in office ever since. The win over Gar-Field -- the Panthers had not beaten the Indians or Woodbridge in their first few seasons before Hayes took over the program -- was only the beginning of the coach's highlight-filled tenure.

That run ended last week when he announced his resignation after 21 seasons, 423 victories and nine Virginia AAA tournament appearances, including a title in 1995, the only state crown for a Northern Virginia boys' team since 1981.

Hayes, who turns 48 this week, stepped down to better savor the pending college career of son Eric, who will play point guard at Maryland next season, and possibly to pursue an athletics administration job. Hayes did not think he could follow Eric's career the way he wants to and still have enough time to devote to the Panthers' basketball program.

Many fathers have enjoyed coaching their sons, for sure, but it might mean even more to Hayes, whose own father died when he was 8 and missed Hayes's successful playing career at Groveton High School in Alexandria and Bethany (W.Va.) College, where he earned induction into the Division III school's hall of fame.

"Maybe that does play a part," said Hayes, whose team recently completed a 25-1 season, with a region semifinal loss to George Washington-Danville. "It's not something I've ever really consciously thought about. I can remember just vaguely a few experiences from my youth with Dad. I don't know that that makes me want to share this time any more with [Eric], but it's certainly something that I treat as very precious.

"I've been coaching Eric, really, since he was 6 years old, and we've got a great relationship. For me to coach him the last four years is just a dream. It's really been one of the experiences as a father I'm sure I'll look back on years and years from now and still hold near and dear. He's going off to college, and it's his college experience, it's not mine. I'll be watching from the stands -- and coaching from the stands -- but . . . I want that experience to be uniquely his."

A return to high school coaching is not out of the question one day, and Hayes will guide the AAU team for which daughter Hannah, 11, plays. He also will coach a U.S. team (that includes Eric) vs. Baltimore area all-stars in the Charm City Challenge on April 2 at Towson University.

'The One Constant'

It might take the unassuming Hayes's departure for area basketball followers to fully appreciate his accomplishments. For years, there has been a quietly spoken notion in some circles that Potomac's success has much more to do with the athletes who live along the Route 1 corridor in Dumfries than who is sitting at the end of the bench on Tuesday and Friday nights.

Potomac? They always have talent. Potomac? Heck, I could coach them, the feeling goes.

These are sentiments that rile Chip Lozinak, Hayes's summer league coach for the past 21 years, scorekeeper for the past 15 or so and recent Potomac Hall of Fame inductee. Those notions do not take into account Hayes's ability to adapt to each of his team's strengths.

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