Ruffin ready for new role away from the gym

Published 8:33 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2023

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It’s the end of an era for the Southside High School girls basketball program. Not only is the greatest player in program history graduating, head coach Milton Ruffin has announced his retirement.

Ruffin spent the last nine seasons as the Lady Seahawks head coach after serving four seasons as an assistant under the late Bill Lake.

Along the way, Ruffin has been part of a state-runner up team in 2012, coached two of his three daughters and stuck around long enough to help Ka’Nyah O’Neal become only the 13thplayer in North Carolina girls basketball history to score over 2,000 points and haul down over 1,000 rebounds in her career.

“I’ve been very blessed to have seen a lot of success here at Southside,” Ruffin said. “I had no idea I would end up here after I retired from the Army, but it’s worked out great. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

The Chocowinity native played basketball and football at Chocowinity High School, then decided to join the Army after graduating in 1979.

His career took him all over the country and around the world with stops in Korea and Germany among many others.

He married Vivian Myers, who led the Indians to the 1981 1A state championship with 42 points in the title game against Hiwassee Dam. She held the record for most points in a state tournament game until 1995 and is still tied for fourth all-time.

The couple had three daughters, Sharekia, Valerie and Symone, who scored her 1,000thpoint while playing for her father.

“I was lucky enough to coach her and Valerie after I retired from the Army,” Ruffin said. “We didn’t know where home was going to be in 2000 when I got out, but I saw a job listing for an in-school suspension supervisor at Chocowinity Middle School and (former Southside principal) Rick Anderson hired me.”

Ruffin coached the boys and girls basketball team that included Valerie to a 28-0 record, then moved to Southside when she started high school.

“The timing was great, because Rick got the Southside job and took me with him the same year Valerie started. I became Bill Lake’s assist until he passed away in 2014.”

Symone entered high school as Valerie was graduating, then O’Neal started her freshman year after Symone graduated. Ruffin thought about retiring then, but couldn’t turn down the chance to coach the budding star.

“She and her mom came over during the summer before her freshman year and we talked for a while,” Ruffin said. “I could tell right then she was a player I wanted to coach. She had goals and was willing to work to achieve them. It was the right call because she’s a terrific player and an even better person.”

Among his career highlights, Ruffin lists coaching Symone when she scored her 1,000thpoint, the 2012 East championship and trip to the Smith Center in Chapel Hill for the finals, a state tournament victory over Falls Lake Academy during COIV-19 and O’Neal record-setting season this year.

“It’s always been about putting the players in the best position to be successful,” Ruffin said. “There are so many people to thank for helping me along the way. Rick Anderson, Sean White and Coach Lake for getting me started, Andre Quinerly and Justin Holt for letting me stay. Coach Jay Petty and his wife Tina, who video all our games for many years, home and away and to all my players and parents for supporting me. Most of all, I thank my wife Vivian and our daughters for letting me do this. We’ve been a basketball family for a long time and now it’s time to do other things with them.”