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Gainesville High Athletics Hall of Fame: Legends of the basketball court Jerry Davis and Manson Hill set for induction
Jerry Davis - photo by Times file photo

Given their credentials, it’s not surprising to see former Gainesville High boys basketball coach Jerry Davis and former girls basketball coach Manson Hill being part of the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

After all, a total of more than 1,100 coaching wins, plus a combined six state championships and 14 state Final Four appearances, compose quite an impressive resumé.

Those credentials also make it appropriate will both be part of the Hall’s 2023 induction class, along with football player Preston Ridlehuber, pioneering football kicker Shelly (Garner) Black, twin tennis standouts Lea Miller-Tooley and Mason (Miller) Nelson and the 1998 state championship boys soccer team, during this year’s ceremony and banquet Saturday at the Civic Center in Gainesville.

However, it seems even more appropriate the pair will be inducted together given their longtime friendship, and the impact they had on each other during the years their two tenures at Gainesville overlapped.

“Yeah, I like that. I sure do,” said Davis, who accumulated 701 wins and led the Red Elephants to back-to-back Class 3A state titles in 1983 and 1984, 12 state quarterfinal appearances, eight Final Fours and 11 Lanierland titles in 28 seasons as head coach. “Manson and I worked together real well. I think a lot of Manson. He’s a great coach. … I sure did enjoy working with (him). We enjoyed bouncing stuff off each other, talking X’s and O’s and motivation and drills and all that. I stole some stuff from him.”

Davis wouldn’t elaborate on exactly what coaching or training strategies he “stole” from Hill, but the latter did confirm that it was a two-way street.

More importantly, Hill said that free flow of informational back-and-forth with Davis had a major impact on his tenure as the Lady Red Elephants’ head coach.

“Jerry was my mentor,” said Hill, who guided Gainesville girls to 452 win, 15 state tournament appearances, four state titles (1994, 2001, 2003, 2004), six Final Four appearances and 10 region titles. “He’d already won two state championships and he ended up winning over 700 games. (Gainesville) had never really won at girls (basketball), but had some good players. … Our players got to go to practice after the boys were through, or vice versa. So they got to see how hard (the boys) were working and all the things that they did, and then we were basically doing the same type of drills.

“I just treated the girls like athletes, and they bought into that. We ran stuff the boys were running, and I could always bounce some things off the wall with Jerry riding on the bus with him. When I first got there, I’d go in (the locker room) at halftime of the boys game and listen to him talk to his team and make adjustments and stuff.”

Of course, while both coaches acknowledge the influence they had on each other, they are also quick to point out that their jobs were also made easier with outstanding assistance coaches and, most importantly, with a lot of talented players.

For Hill, that includes such big names as Tasha Humphrey and Mahogany Hudson, the latter of which also served as an assistant on his staff and will be introducing him at Saturday’s ceremony.

And he is eagerly looking forward to catching up with several of his former players this weekend.

“Our school has had, for the last 120 years, some outstanding athletes,” Hill said. “I know this will sound (a lot like a cliché), but I had great players to coach, great athletes to work with. It’s a lot easier (to succeed) when you have great players.

“I have talked to a few of them. I know Mahogany (Hudson) is going to be the one introducing me. That’s really big for me because I … introduced her for the Hall of Fame. I know some of the players have told me they’re coming, so that’ll be good.”

Likewise, Davis says several of his former players – like Red Elephants legend and former big league pitcher Cris Carpenter, who will introducing him Saturday, and fellow Hall of Fame member Patrick Hamilton – were a big part of his success as a coach.

And like Hill, many of his players throughout his time at Gainesville have very much been on his mind of late, and knows that his induction into the Hall of Fame would not be possible without the hard work they all put in.

“I (thought) back to some of the kids I had the opportunity to coach and some of the teams, that kind of thing,” Davis said. But it’s a nice honor, and I sure do appreciate them recognizing me. I thought earlier it would be nice. Then I looked at how old the school was. It’s got a pretty storied sports history. To be selected this early, I think it is an honor.

“I just remember having the opportunity to coach kids who were dedicated and worked hard, came to practice to get better, that kind of thing.”

With both Davis and Hill living elsewhere now — Davis still has a home that he rents out in Gainesville, but splits most of his time between Florida and western North Carolina, while Hill lives in Hilton Head, S.C. — both are also looking forward to catching up with others who made their time in Gainesville that much more enjoyable.

“I’ll be able to see Vick (former Gainesville athletics director and baseball coach Wayne Vickery) again,” Hill said. “Vick will be there, I’m sure. We were there (at Gainesville) all those years together, and he was having his big years.

“Jerry was my athletic director for a while. Coach (Bobby) Gruhn was the one who brought me to Gainesville, but Vick and Jerry were my two athletic directors that I worked with. We were just good friends and we worked on stuff together. Then Bruce Miller came. … Yeah, we were all close, so a lot of those people will be there.”

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