There aren’t many things that Pat Hewitt loves more than basketball. But family is one of those things.
As a teenager getting ready to go to college, at first she was set on attending a school in Alabama — until she found out that her family was going to move to Brazil soon. Wanting to spend as much time as possible with them before the move, Pat set her sights on someplace closer to home: Coker College.
Fast-forward a few years, and Pat is now one of the most prominent and respected members of both the Hartsville and Coker communities. During her 25-year tenure as head girls’ basketball coach at Hartsville High School, she won numerous state Coach of the Year awards and was named National Physical Education Teacher of the Year in 2001. In 1997, she was inducted into the Coker College Athletic Hall of Fame, and in 2009, she was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“We were a big family, and that is what I loved about Coker.”
But more importantly, Pat Hewitt has had an immeasurable impact on Coker, Hartsville High School, and the entire Hartsville community — not to mention the students and athletes she’s coached and mentored throughout the years. She is a prime example of the positive things that can happen when a college and the surrounding community connect.
It all started at Coker College, where she found her second family.
Pat says the small classes at Coker made the environment conducive to interesting discussions and learning experiences, but the real benefit was the sense of camaraderie on campus. “We felt very comfortable and at home because we all knew each other by name,” she says. As a commuter, Pat didn’t live on campus like many of her classmates — but that wasn’t a problem at all. “A lot of the kids at Coker would let me stay with them overnight,” she says. “We were a big family, and that is what I loved about Coker.”
Pat excelled at Coker and continued to fall more in love with Hartsville over the next four years. So when she graduated with a teaching degree, accepting a position as a physical education teacher at Hartsville High School was a natural choice. “Coker is so well respected in the academic world — and so is Hartsville High School,” she says. “They both push students not only to be prepared academically and athletically, but also to be well-rounded individuals.”
As part of her well-rounded Coker education, Pat had played intramural basketball at Coker. At the time, Coker was still an all-female school and hadn’t started competing in intercollegiate athletics. So when she accepted the teaching job at HHS, coaching wasn’t even on her mind. “I never really thought about coaching until I began teaching at Hartsville High School,” she says. “I was the female chaperone at the time, and when I saw what was happening at the end of the full court — I was smitten.”
The excitement, the intensity, and the intellectual nature of the game drew Pat in — and once she started coaching, she was hooked. “I would go to bed at night dreaming of different defensive alignments,” she says. “It was a challenge, but I would eat, sleep, and drink it. I loved it.”
She would go on to build a remarkable career. Pat compiled a career record of 425–181 at Hartsville and reached the state championship game five times, winning three state titles. She led Hartsville to 13 consecutive state tournament appearances and 11 consecutive 20-win seasons. Her squad was ranked eighth in the nation in 1990 and 16th in the nation in 1992, posting a 32–1 record in both years. During the 1989–90 season, Hartsville’s only loss was to national champion Christ the King School.
Notable basketball players coached by Pat have included Women’s National Basketball Association CEO Beth Bass, former N.C. State star Tammy Gibson, and Hartsville Olympian Shannon Johnson — who, after a successful professional career, moved back to Hartsville in 2015 to become Coker’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach.
But when Pat looks back on her time at Coker, it’s not her basketball experience or even her teaching degree that she values most. When asked what the most important lesson she learned from Coker was, Pat doesn’t hesitate to reply with one word: confidence.
“I knew when I left Coker I was prepared to teach,” she says. “That is what I took away from Coker: confidence and a big family.” That confidence helped lead to her own professional success, but it also became her coaching philosophy. “I instilled the confidence I gained at Coker into all of my athletes at Hartsville,” she says. “Coker gave me the tools to become who I am today, and I prepared my kids with that same toolbox. The success God has blessed me with started right here at Coker.”
Building on what she learned at Coker, Pat always aimed to coach “the whole child.” For that reason, she has become not just a successful coach but a beloved friend and mentor to so many. Johnson, for one, credits Pat with more than being a good coach who helped her learn the sport. She says Pat was like a second mother to her, who invited her into her home and gave her a second family.
And family, of course, is what Pat is all about.