Beyond the Scoreboard: Former Hendersonville football coach Brintnall dies

Phil Brintnall was a three-sport athlete at Swain County High before winning more than 100 games as a high-school football coach. (Photo courtesy of /swain Hall of Fame)

Former Hendersonville High football coach Phil Brintnall Jr. died Monday night.

He posted an impressive 104-60 (.634) record in 14 seasons with the Bearcats (1979-92) and had some great teams that featured brothers Sam and Eric Gash, but could never get over the hump in the playoffs against powerhouse teams from the Smoky Mountain 1A Conference.

Seven times in his 14 years at Hendersonville his teams lost in the playoffs to the eventual 1A state champion, including multiple defeats to Murphy and Swain, who combined to win seven straight state titles (1985-91) during Brintnall’s tenure with the Bearcats.

From 1983-90, the Bearcats were 68-29 under Brintnall, reaching the playoffs every season.

He left Hendersonville in 1992 to coach at Brevard, where he posted a 30-15 record in four seasons.

Brintnall finished with a 134-75 mark (.653) in 18 seasons of high-school football. Including stints as an assistant, he coached for more than 30 years.

Former Hendersonville High athlete B.J. Laughter, who was also a football coach and athletic director at the school, posted on his Facebook page Tuesday night about Brintnall’s death.

More than 125 people commented, with former HHS players and students passing on condolences to a well-respected and well-loved man.

“I will forever be indebted to Coach Britnall. He had the confidence to hire me as one of his assistants after I had just graduated college,” said Laughter, now the principal at Bruce Drysdale Elementary.

“He took a chance on me, and he got me started on my career path. I played for him all four years of high school, even when I played JV ball. He coached them all. Growing up and watching him coach, he was legendary. He was someone we all wanted to play for some day.

“I remember in my middle school days, we'd go running out on the field there at the high school. He'd be mowing every day and have to run us off.”

“He was a disciplinarian who ran a tight ship,” said Eric Gash, who played at North Carolina and is the Hendersonville High athletic director.

“Every year at practice we wore shirts with the letters PMA, which meant Positive Mental Attitude. He said whatever you approached in life to approach it with a positive mental attitude, and that always stuck with me.

“We had some pretty good runs under Coach Brintnall. I remember my junior year we got all the way to the fourth round and then ran into Murphy. We tried hard for the coach, but we just didn't quite get that state championship.”

A three-sport standout at Swain County High, Brintnall was inducted into that school’s Hall of Fame in 2002.

His No. 44 basketball jersey was retired after he played on three Smoky Mountain Conference title teams. In his senior season (1958-59), he scored 640 points and averaged 14 rebounds a game, leading the Maroon Devils to a fourth-place finish in the state playoffs.

He played college basketball at Tennessee and Western Carolina and also coached boys basketball at Erwin High.