Phil Jackson’s big smile showed how much he appreciated the show of gratitude from Gainesville High before Friday’s Region 8-AAAAA championship game at City Park Stadium.
Accompanied by family members and his longtime radio broadcast partner at midfield before the game, Jackson was given a proclamation from the Gainesville City Board of Education thanking him for a six-decade print media career and broadcast contributions to Gainesville High and the community.
Part of the ceremony was an announcement renaming the press box above Bobby Gruhn Field to the Phil Jackson Media Booth.
“My dad doesn’t like to receive accolades, but this means the world to all of us,” said Jackson’s daughter, Stacie McCune.
Jackson did it all in the world of print media. He was sports editor of The Times for 30 years, broadcast Gainesville High games during all sports seasons for both WDUN-AM and WGGA-AM in Gainesville and authored the book “Fifty Years of Cheers and Jeers,” a collection of his columns and stories.
Jackson also spent more than 20 years as a voter for the Heisman Trophy and was the recipient of countless sports writing awards from the Associated Press.
Escorted by family and friends, Jackson, 83, was joined by members of the Gainesville High administration and school board as they surprised him with a framed copy of the resolution.
“This was all very nice,” said Jackson. “I knew something was going on when I got here and they told me I had to meet the principal.”
Joining Jackson were daughters McCune, Sandy Heath of Dawsonville and Susan Jackson-Cole of Brunswick, along with their husbands, and Jackson’s radio broadcast partner for more than 200 games, Mike Banks.
Longtime radio analyst Banks also had the task of getting Jackson to the game without letting on to the fact he was to be honored. He started asking Jackson about attending the game a couple months back.
Once Banks noticed his friend was catching on to the surprise, he pleaded with Jackson just to go watch the game with him for old times’ sake.
Jackson started his career as sports editor of The Times at age of 18 in 1948. He left in 1950 to serve in the Army for two years, followed by three years as a student at the University of Georgia, before returning to Gainesville to continue his career.
Jackson is the second in a four-generation line in his family to attend Gainesville High, according to his daughter. The most recent was his granddaughter, who graduated in 2010.
Today, Jackson still lives in Gainesville and makes it to the golf course twice a week, McCune said.