Long-time Vance County basketball coach Wilton Baskett (center) passed away on Saturday morning. During his storied tenure, Baskett accumulated 402 victories, six regular season titles and six conference tournament championships as a head coach between Northern Vance and Vance County High School before announcing his retirement at the end of the 2019-20 season. Brandon White / Dispatch Staff.

HENDERSON -- Vance County has lost one of its most successful and influential high school basketball figures in former Northern Vance and Vance County High School men’s basketball coach Wilton Baskett, who passed away on Saturday morning.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of Wilton Baskett’s tragic passing,” Vance County athletic director Joe Sharrow said in a statement. “Heaven has gained an incredible coach, but an even better person. Coach Baskett always had a tough exterior but a heart of gold, and we were all truly blessed that he chose to spend his career in Vance County. I am a better man for having known him and am forever proud to call him my friend. I send my thoughts and prayers to his family during this difficult time.”

Beginning his career as a player for Vance Senior High during the 1970s, Baskett took an interest in coaching after an Achilles injury prevented him from playing at the collegiate level.

After taking a job at West Craven Middle School, Baskett returned to Henderson as an assistant for his alma mater in 1989 before taking over head coaching duties for Northern Vance five years later. Under his guidance, Northern Vance won five regular season conference titles and six conference tournament championships, with Baskett being named conference Coach of the Year three times.

Baskett was selected to lead the Vance County men’s basketball program in 2018 after Northern and Southern Vance were consolidated into one facility. In his first year, Baskett led the team to a 24-6 record and a regular season conference title, which allowed him to claim one more conference Coach of the Year award.

Despite enduring health issues near the end of his tenure, Baskett maintained his passion for basketball and was able to obtain his 400th win as a coach against East Chapel Hill on Feb. 4, 2020. He announced his retirement from coaching at the end of the 2019-20 season following a solid 19-7 campaign from Vance County.

Baskett finished his storied career with 402 victories and leaves behind a legacy that has transformed the culture of high school basketball in Vance County, which will continue to be witnessed through players and coaches for many more years to come.