October 2, 2014
SURRY COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) – Nine years ago, the Surry County boys basketball team provided their community with maybe its greatest inspiration. Their victory, however, came with a heavy price.
Joe Ellis led the Cougars as head coach for 15 years. In 2003, he found out he had colon cancer, and later found out it was inoperable. “It was a very difficult thing for us to accept,” said Doris Ellis, then Joe’s wife. But Ellis, a 6-foot-4 gentlemen with a smile so many knew him for, decided to keep going, and coaching.
His team, though shocked when they found out, kept playing, and kept winning. In 2005, the Cougars, motivated to win for their head coach, made it all the way to the state championship game, and defeated heavily favored Twin Springs 57-48 in Richmond for the State A crown.
“I was so proud of him. I was so proud of him that day,” remembers Ellis.
Two months after the win, Ellis passed away.
Hundreds flooded the Surry County High School gymnasium, where the team had just celebrated their championship win. “I lost my best friend. I lost a guy I could talk to about anything,” said Ervin Jones, an assistant still with the team who coached alongside Ellis during that magical run.
Though the man is gone, his name–always seen on the floor of the Surry County gym– lives on along with his message.
“Don’t quit,” said Jones, “Keep striving. Don’t quit.”
And that message will now be depicted in a movie based on Ellis’s life and his team’s journey to the title. Based on Doris Ellis’s book “Going Out A Champion,” the movie will star NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins as coach Ellis, though they cannot begin filming without enough funding.