When Northeast Tennessee basketball at the high school or collegiate level ever is discussed, George Pitts’ name is surely among the topics of conversation with the impact he has left on the sport and the region. The 13th-year head coach of the Tornado has left behind a storied history that is talked of to this day and continues to impact the lives of young men today.
- 2 CoSIDA Academic All-District honorees
- 3 Conference Carolinas Scholar Athletes of the Year
- 2 NAIA All-Americans
- 3 All-Region players
- 2 conference players of the year
- 4 conference freshmen of the year
- 23 all-conference selections
- 14 Academic All-Conference Carolinas honorees
- 3 NCAA Southeast Regional appearances
- 3 Conference Carolinas regular season championships
- 1 Conference Carolinas tournament championship
- 1 Appalachian Athletic Conference regular season championship
- 3 Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament championships
- 3 conference coach of the year awards
- 7 20-win seasons
- Never finished lower than third in the Conference Carolinas standings
- School record 26 wins in 2007-08
- Became the all-time wins leader on December 2, 2017, with a win at Limestone
- Through the 2017-18 season, owns 261 wins at King
Year-By-Year Season Recaps
2017-18: The Tornado won their third Conference Carolinas regular season title, finishing with a conference record of 14-4 to edge Lees-McRae for the title. King defeated the Bobcats 102-98 in Banner Elk, N.C. in the regular season finale. The Tornado then earned an at-large berth into the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship where they fell to top-ranked and top-seed Lincoln Memorial University. Jordan Floyd was unanimously selected Conference Carolinas Player of the Year and first team all-conference. He became the first Tornado to earn D2CCA first team All-Southeast Region honors.
2016-17: Coach Pitts brought the Tornado back to the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship game after defeating top seed Pfeiffer on the road 100-98. However, the Tornado fell short of the second straight NCAA Tournament appearance as they fell to Limestone in the championship game 76-70. Overall, King posted a 19-12 record while going 14-6 in Conference Carolinas play, finishing tied for third in the standings. Hunter LeVeau garnered first team all-conference honors and ECAC honorable mention recognition while C.J. Good was selected second team all-conference. The Tornado led the league in rebounding with an average of 38.6 boards per game while ranking second with 11.9 three-point baskets per game.
2015-16: Coach Pitts guided the men's basketball programs to new heights, earning Conference Carolinas Coach of the Year accolades for the second time. Early in the season, the Tornado climbed the national poll, and were ranked as high as seventh in the NABC poll, their highest ranking in the poll in school history. He also earned a program first as the Tornado won the Conference Carolinas Tournament for the first time in history. The Tornado won 10 straight contests before falling in the season finale, King wrapped up their second Conference Carolinas regular season title and top seed in the league tournament with a mark of 17-3. King hosted the semifinals and finals in the Student Center Complex, defeating Barton 85-53 in the championship game, clinching their second NCAA Tournament berth. The Tornado earned the No. 2 seed in the regional tournament, and their season came to close in the first round, falling to regional finalist Lenoir-Rhyne, giving King an overall record of 25-7. C.J. Good and Hunter LeVeau both garnered all-conference honors and Good earned All-Region honors from the NABC after leading all of NCAA Division II with an average of 3.97 three-point field goals per game.
2014-15: On December 18, 2014, Coach Pitts entered rare air as he won his 1,000th career game in an 88-49 victory at UVa-Wise. That win was just one of many highlights of the season for the Tornado. Only weeks after giving their legendary head coach his 1,000th career win, the Tornado hosted a game that was televised on national television for the first time in school history. King squared off against 18th-ranked University of Mount Olive in CBS Sports' NCAA Division II Basketball Game of the Week. The Tornado gave the sellout crowd quite a show, coming from 12 points down and closing the game on a 53-23 run over the final 16 minutes and outscored the Trojans 60-38 in the second half to take the contest 91-73 for their first win over a ranked team since 2013. King would finish runner-up to Mount Olive in the Conference Carolinas regular season standings with a league record of 17-3. The Tornado advanced to the conference tournament semifinals with a buzzer-beating three-point shot from Hunter LeVeau to top Limestone, however, King's run ended with a loss to North Greenville in the semifinals. The Tornado ended the season with an overall record of 24-6, going 14-1 in the Student Center Complex. Logan Lyle earned Conference Carolinas Scholar Athlete of the Year for the second time, became the first King men's basketball player to be selected Capital One Academic All-District, and King University’s Male Athlete of the Year.
2013-14: In the second game of the 2013-14 season, the Tornado set multiple school records in their 131-69 win over Mars Hill University. The 131 points were only two points away from the 44-year-old record, and their 27 three-point baskets obliterated the previous mark of 20. King faced a tough schedule early in the nonconference, but the Tornado found their stride when they reached Conference Carolinas play, rolling off six straight wins to start January before dropping their first game of the new year. The Tornado nearly won their second conference title in three years, but they ultimately finished third, only one game behind league co-champions University of Mount Olive and Barton College. In the Conference Carolinas Tournament, the Tornado turned up their offense, defeating North Greenville University 96-73 in the quarterfinals before topping second-seeded Barton 80-60 in the semifinals before falling to Limestone College in the championship game. Hunter LeVeau was named the Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year and earned second team all-conference honors. Logan Lyle also garnered second team all-conference honors and was named the Conference Carolinas Winter Scholar Athlete of the Year for men's basketball.
2012-13: The Tornado nearly posted 20 wins in, but came just short at 19-8, but finished third in the Conference Carolinas standings with a 14-6 mark, only one game out of first place. King posted a 3-0 record against 2012-13 NCAA Southeast Regional finalists, Barton College and USC Aiken. Three players were named All-Conference Carolinas with Eddie Piccinini and Logan Lyle earning second team honors and Jason Seymore earning third team recognition. Piccinini was also named Conference Carolinas Winter Scholar Athlete of the Year and King University's Male Athlete of the Year.
2011-12: After achieving full membership into the NCAA, the successes continued to pour in after his team posted its fifth 20-plus win season in his six years and earned the 2011-12 Conference Carolinas regular season championship. Their title, impressive 23-8 overall record, and top-25 ranking achieved earlier in the season helped the Tornado earn an at-large bid to the 2011-12 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional Tournament, the first NCAA postseason appearance in King Athletic history.
On Jan. 31 the Tornado were placed inside the top-25 in the NABC/NCAA Division II national poll for the first time in school history. As the season progressed, Brian Hewitt marked up the King record books by becoming the school’s leader in career steals and on Feb. 18 entered the 1,000-point club after an 18-point night against Pfeiffer. As most George Pitts teams do, the Tornado made a name for itself by shooting the long ball exceptionally well and finished the season No. 1 in the country in three-point field goals per game, averaging 11.0 per contest. Part of that equation for success included two all-conference, one All-Region selection, and Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year Logan Lyle. At season’s end, Pitts was named the 2011-12 Conference Carolinas Coach of the Year after making such an impact on the regional and national scene in just the school’s first year as a Division II member.
2010-11: Pitts and the Tornado witnessed a change at the top of the King all-time scoring leaderboard when Mark Dockery etched his name as the College’s recorded his 1,804th career point against Victory (Tenn.) on March 10, 2011, to take the top spot. Pitts coached three NCCAA All-Mideast Region players, saw Dockery named to the NCCAA All-American team that year and finished third in the NCCAA National Tournament.
As NAIA Members
Pitts took the reins of the Tornado men’s basketball program in 2006 after a highly successful run of leading championship-caliber teams at Brentwood Academy (Brentwood, Tenn.). Before joining King, he spent nearly 30 years as a coach and administrator in the Tennessee school system.
In his first four seasons, he posted 20-win seasons, combining for an overall record of 97-33. In three years as a member of the Appalachian Athletic Conference, he accumulated a 43-11 record (.796), finishing in the top-2 twice. His best season was in 2007-08 when the Tornado finished 26-8 with a 16-2 AAC mark to finish first in the conference. All three years that King was a part of the AAC, Pitts led the team to a conference tournament championship (2006-09) and qualified for the NAIA National Tournament.
Though King Athletics was making a leap from NAIA to NCAA Division II status, Pitts and the Tornado maintained their success by a fourth straight 20-plus win season, finishing 24-6 overall in 2009-10. In each of the two seasons, the Tornado were transitioning to NCAA status they advanced to the NCCAA Division I National Tournament.
Prior to King
Pitts spent five years at Brentwood Academy and led the Eagles to four state titles. He helped BA become the only boys’ basketball team to win four consecutive state championships in Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) history. Pitts led the Eagles to state titles in straight seasons between 2003 and 2006. From 2005-2007, Pitts went a combined 73-16 highlighted by a 2005 season where he led the Eagles to a 34-2 (.944) overall and 13-0 league record en route to a state title. That year, Brentwood was ranked 24th in the nation.
For as successful as he was at Brentwood Academy, Pitts’ work at nearby Science Hill High School (Johnson City, Tenn.) may be what he is most revered for. He began coaching the Hilltoppers in 1984 and stayed with the school until he began at Brentwood. Pitts led Science Hill to three AAA State Championships (1990, 1994, 1995), 15 state tournament appearances and one runner-up finish (1991). He also won two Arby’s Classic titles and finished runner-up twice. While at Science Hill, Pitts coached former King assistant coaches, Shane Williams, John good, and Shane Williams.
Pitts began his coaching career at his alma mater, Young High School (Knoxville, Tenn.) in 1970 as an assistant coach of the boys’ program. Three years later, he was named head coach and led the team to its first and only state tournament appearance in 1976 before the school disbanded. He then transferred to South Young High and led the team to a State Tournament runner-up finish in 1980 before spending three years at Knoxville Bearden High School (1981-83).
In his 30 years of high school coaching experience, Pitts has led teams to a total of 820 wins and only 211 losses. His teams won 15 district championships, 12 regional and sub-state championships, and seven state championships.
Pitts is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, class of 1970. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business and also holds a master’s of education degree from Tennessee Tech. Pitts played collegiately, for one year, at East Tennessee State University in 1965-66. He and his wife, Renee, have five children and seven grandchildren.