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FairfaxLongtime McLean High loyalist makes difficult decision

Longtime McLean High loyalist makes difficult decision

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The decision was difficult and almost unthinkable, but longtime McLean Highlanders loyalist and alumnus Rusty Payne recently stepped down from one of his many involvements at the high school.

Payne opted to leave his six-year position as McLean’s boys head freshman basketball coach to take a job next season as a boys varsity assistant under former McLean head coach Jim Smith at Meridian High School in Falls Church. When a student at McLean, Payne played under Smith when he was the Highlanders’ head varsity hoops coach.

Last season, Smith returned to McLean to coach under Payne on the freshman team. Payne, a 1991 McLean graduate, remained loyal to Smith over the years. When asked to join the Meridian staff, he decided to make that move.

“I really enjoyed my time as freshman coach and it was going to be fun to meet all the incoming eighth-graders next season, who are excited about the program,” Payne said. “It’s hard to leave and there is a kind of a finale to it. If it was anybody but Jim, I would not be going anywhere.”


Payne’s multiple-hat-wearing status at McLean, where he also was a varsity baseball player, will otherwise continue. He’s the longtime varsity football announcer, a fill-in announcer of other sports, has been the school’s top sports Hall of Fame organizer for years, is the school’s sports historian, has a fund-raisiing role, and is the parent of a current sophomore student.

NOTES: McLean’s 2016-17 boys freshman team under Payne finished 15-1 and first in the Liberty District. The teams also had two 13-3 campaigns under Payne . . . When Smith left McLean to become the head boys varsity coach at Chantilly for many seasons, Payne coached some of Chantilly’s summer-league basketball teams those years.

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