Former Vol great’s home sells after 4-buyer scramble

March 25-31, 2024

By Richard Courtney


Bill Justus, as he would be known later in life, was an overperforming athlete at Fulton County High School in Knoxville where he was an all-state basketball and football player, earning All-America honors in basketball and honorable mention in football. In those days, he was Billy Justus and he drove Vanderbilt fans crazy.


He later attended the University of Tennessee on a football scholarship and played as a freshman there before gracing the world with his basketball abilities and talent. In 1967, he led UT to an SEC Championship and was a three-time All-SEC selection. Freshmen could not compete at that time, and there was no three-point basket.


As some have moaned ad nauseum in comparing the legendary Pete Maravich to Caitlyn Clark, the Iowa phenom who recently passed Maravich on the college basketball career scoring list, the same argument could be made for Justus, for who knows how many three-pointers he would have made if his long field goals had counted. My guess is both players would have loved watching Caitlyn Clark perform.


Following his senior year, Justus was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA, Denver in the old American Basketball Association and the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL.


Worry not, there is a real estate column in here.


Following his extraordinary collegiate career, he began working for Converse, the manufacturer of the preeminent basketball shoe at the time, and taught ball handling and other basketball skills at clinics around the country, even at Vanderbilt Coach Roy Skinner’s basketball camp.


As a 15-year-old camper, I was amazed that Skinner had allowed him into the gym. That emotion was only surpassed by the respect he earned from all of us with his understated demeanor and vast talent. He made everyone in attendance a better player and evicted trite rivalry and bitterness from our psyches.


Later in life, he became a tennis player and held several amateur United States Tennis Association Titles. He lived in Nashville during much of that time, 43 years at 402 Sunnyside Drive in Belle Meade. He died in October, still owning the house.


Veteran real estate broker Dana Griscom, herself legendary, of Pilkerton Realtor listed his house for $2.25 million. With all of his tennis playing and basketball instruction, little had been done to update the house since he bought it in 1980. It is ironic that one of greatest basketball players in UT history bought the house from a member of the famed Wilson family, one of Vanderbilt’s most esteemed benefactors, for $200,000. The bitter rivalry did not extend past the court.


Griscom hoped for the best. When buyers’ agent Julie Riven Dretler pulled into the property, she saw “what must have been 15 cars parked in the driveway.” Her clients had been eyeing the house for some time and had the house inspected before making the offer, so there were no contingencies in her offer. She knew a list price offer or better was not a slam dunk if it had contingencies.


Although the floors of the house had wall-to-wall carpet, an impressive feature of the day, yet ironic from a person who was legendary on the hardwoods, the bones of the house were solid. While Dretler, a Nashville native, has only been in real estate for three years or so, she has done so in a manner to Justus’ rise at UT. It would be difficult to identify a person who has had more success in their first years in the business.


Dretler was a superstar upon arrival and held her own against Dana Griscom. Griscom received four offers of list price or better and sent a memo asking for “highest and best” to be due by 5 p.m. Friday, promising a response by 3 p.m. Saturday.


Dretler was the highest and she was best, and her clients were able to metaphorically cut down the nets.


Griscom said in her description the house is “ready for the new owners to restore the house to its former glory,” much as Rick Barnes has done with the Tennessee basketball program.


Now, if only someone could work that magic with my favorite basketball team over on West End.  


Photo cutline:

401 Sunnyside Drive