When Randy Embry hung up his whistle in the spring of 1999 after two decades of distinguished coaching for the Owensboro High School boys' basketball team, he knew he wasn't ready to hang up his career.

He toyed with the idea of crossing the Ohio River to coach in Indiana, explored a couple of other ideas that would keep him in athletics, and then a bell went off when his wife, Luann, suggested scouting.

So, he called then-Miami Heat head coach Pat Riley, who had been Embry's teammate and close friend while both played for Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky in the 1960s.

"I asked Pat if there was a spot for me to scout for the Heat, and he replied, 'Give me 15 minutes,' " Embry recalled. "Fifteen minutes later, I got a call from (Heat general manager) Randy Pfund, and that's how it started.

"I was a part-time scout for two years and became full time in 2002 -- a friend took care of a friend."

The Heat, of course, would go on to win three NBA Championships (2006, 2012, 2013) -- and, all these years later, he is still a full-time scout for Miami. Among those he scouted for the Heat was NBA superstar Dwyane Wade.

"I've really enjoyed it," Embry said. "It's very, very important to me to see a player two times or more in order to properly evaluate him. You want to watch his habits, see how consistent his shooting form his. You take statistics into consideration, as well, but you have a much better understanding of a player's potential the more you see him person."

Embry's celebrated journey in athletics began at a very young age. He grew up at the corner of 17th and Daviess streets in Owensboro, and he credits those formative years for much of the success that followed.

"I was very fortunate," Embry recalled. "I grew up in a great neighborhood with a lot of great athletes and everybody loved to play ball. Also, my parents supported me in everything I wanted to do in sports.

"I was exposed to tennis when I was very young because we lived a block away from a tennis court. There was only one court, though, so you had to win to stay on the court. That was a good early lesson, because I found out quickly the difference between winning and losing."

A tremendous all-around athlete, Embry's greatest passions were for basketball and baseball.

He was a star guard for Hall of Famer Bobby Watson at Owensboro High School, where Embry became Kentucky's Mr. Basketball recipient and a Scholastic Coach High School All-American as a senior in 1961.

"He was a great coach and a great individual," Embry said of Watson. "He was a tremendous competitor, and he was fun to play for. I look back on those days very fondly."

Embry also starred in baseball at OHS, where he played for another Hall of Fame coach, Jack Hicks.

"He actually first coached me when I was in the fifth grade at Longfellow Elementary," Embry recalled. "He insisted that you do things the right way. Even at a young age, we were required to shoot a left-handed layup. He was a perfectionist, but I really enjoyed playing for him, too."

Embry's talents ultimately led him to the University of Kentucky. He had plenty of other offers, but the dream of every youngster in Kentucky at the time, he said, was to play at UK.

"I figured if I went to UK I would be playing for the best college basketball coach in the country, and that I would be playing in the best college baseball conference (SEC) in the country," Embry reasoned. "That was just an opportunity I couldn't turn down."

Embry was impressed from the outset.

"He was very smart, had a great mind for the game," Embry said of Rupp, who, himself, had played for legendary Phog Allen at Kansas. "He had a great system, and coach (Harry) Lancaster was a real asset as his assistant. Coach Rupp was many years ahead of his time in terms of running the fastbreak, in particular."

Lancaster, meanwhile, was his baseball coach at UK.

"I'd played shortstop most of my life, but I didn't have the arm for it at the (SEC) level so I was moved to third base," Embry said. "Coach Lancaster backed me a little bit off the plate, and it really helped my hitting. He knew what he was doing, and those years playing baseball in the SEC were very rewarding.

"With every coach I played for, we always had a chance to win."

After graduating from UK in 1965, Embry soon landed his first high school coaching job at Daviess County High School.

He coached both basketball and baseball for the Panthers, but his career at DCHS is best remembered for the KHSAA State Baseball Championship his team won in 1971.

"That was a tremendous team," Embry said. "I could tell how talented they were as sophomores, and we just built and built and built over the next three years.

"By the time those guys were seniors, I knew we had something special. I would have been extremely disappointed if we hadn't won the state championship that year. Again, a very special group -- I'm still close to a lot of those players today."

Embry departed DCHS in the late '70s, briefly coached women's basketball at Kentucky Wesleyan College -- going 17-1 in the second of his two seasons -- and finally returned to his beloved alma mater in 1979, just in time to be on staff with Watson and chief assistant Adrian Hayes for Owensboro's 1980 KHSAA state basketball championship.

Embry took the reigns when Watson retired in 1980, and the Red Devils continued to roll. In 19 seasons at the helm, Embry's OHS teams won 445 games, captured eight 3rd Region championships and reached the Sweet 16 semifinals three times. He retired following the 1998-99 season.

"I had a lot of good players to coach at Owensboro," Embry said, "and there was a lot of tradition to uphold with regard to that program. We had a lot of really good teams, and I feel privileged to have been able to come back to my high school as a coach. We had a great run there."

Also during his coaching stint at OHS, Embry was an assistant to baseball head coach Gene VanHoose, who led the Red Devils to KHSAA state championships in 1983 and '87.

A career chock-full of success added up, and Embry was inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame in 2012.

All the while, the ever-active Embry has never really stopped being an athlete. His affinity for handball ultimately morphed into a passion for racquetball, and he became a masters champion at it.

"I originally played handball at UK to toughen up my hands for the baseball season," Embry recalled, "but that sport could beat your hands up if you played too much of it.

"I loved it when racquetball came along and became so popular. For me, it was more of an extension of tennis, the sport I had originally grown up playing. I really enjoyed the game, the competition, and I was able to have some success with it."

Through it all, Embry, now 75, has placed a high value on family and community.

Luann has been his wife for 51 years, and their children -- Chad, Brad and DeeDee -- were outstanding multisport athletes at Owensboro High School. The couple have seven grandchildren and "all of them are pretty athletic," Embry said.

"I was fortunate in that all my kids loved sports and loved to play sports," Embry said. "My wife also loved sports, and she was a positive influence on our kids and on me. When I coached, she was very good at helping me through tough losses, and she's just been a positive influence all the way around for all these years.

"And, this is a great sports community with such a rich heritage. I've really enjoyed living in Owensboro. It's my home, and I've always been proud to say I'm from here.

"I'm a very blessed man."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.