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With 701 wins and two state titles, Gainesville's Jerry Davis is ready to leave the bench
Gainesville High boys basketball coach Jerry Davis watches the action from the Red Elephants’ bench Tuesday night as his team takes on the Falcons at the Flowery Branch High gymnasium. After an illustrious career, Davis will coach his final regular season game tonight.


Listen to Gainesville coach Jerry Davis talk about his future in Alaska.

There is one shelf in the office of longtime Gainesville coach Jerry Davis, and on it sits paraphernalia from his 28 years at the helm of the Red Elephants boys basketball program.

There’s the game ball from his 600th win vs. Elbert County on Feb. 5 of 1999. It’s enclosed in a case and signed by Michael Thurmond, Clay Rigdon, Josh Davis, Kenny Austin and every other person associated with the program during that year.

To the right of that case is another game ball from a significant win in his illustrious career, the Class AAA state championship in 1984.

His team went 30-0 that year.

In frames on the next shelf are pictures of past players, like former point guard Greg Smith, wearing their college jerseys, and Gainesville team photos, some faded.

In an era when loyalty and humility are at a premium and, often times, words not understood by those of whom its expected, Davis has stuck with his school and his team for 28 years of wins and loses and will, tonight, bark from the sidelines during a regular season game for the final time.

"Plans are now that (tonight’s game) is the last one," Davis said. "I’d never say never, but I’m not looking for something else down the line."

What Davis is looking for down the line is a fishing trip to Alaska with wife, Juanita.

"My wife and I are taking our fifth wheel travel trailer and taking off Alaska," Davis said.

The Gainesville coach has traveled to the 49th state three or four times and spent the summer of 2001 there, "I really enjoyed it," he said.

"Summer basketball makes it hard to get there, and summer is when you want to go."

In the basketball world, as it stands right now, Davis is the second winningest coach in the state among active coaches with 701 career wins.

"(Winning that many games) is not something one person does," Davis said. "You have to have good players, and I’ve been blessed with good players and blessed with good assistants.

"Go back to Steve Petit, Doug Lipscomb, Warren Sellers, Scott Givens is doing a great job. We’ve had great backing from the administration and board of education and superintendant’s office. They’ve given us what we’ve needed to be competitive, and that’s important. You don’t get that everywhere."

Competitive is one way of putting it.

Davis’ teams have 24 subregion and region titles, been to the state tournament more than 14 times, made the Final Four eight times, won two state championships and, during a magical stretch in the early ‘80s, garnered 35 consecutive wins.

Davis has been named state coach of the year twice and region coach of the year 10 times.

"The state championship years are fond memories," Davis said. "But I’ll tell you what, I don’t remember what year it was, I think it was the team with Kris Nordholz and Ben Booth. Madison County and Hart County were both ranked in the top five in the state and we beat them both in the region tournament and won region. That was big."

And in his 28th year as coach of the Gainesville boys he’s still energetic in practice, harping on the necessity of being able to make free throws and watching over his team, as a father figure should, when they huddle to say a post-practice prayer.

"I’ve always loved basketball," Davis said, "and I’ve always liked working with the kids. I still enjoy practice, I enjoy games too, but I enjoy practice. As time has passed I enjoy more teaching the game in practice then a lot of the games themselves."

Davis getting more enjoyment from practice than games shouldn’t be mistaken for a lackluster attitude when it comes to games.

In fact, just last week, Davis argued a call with such fervor and conviction that a referee called a technical foul on him.

Come to find out, however, it wasn’t a call he was arguing at all but instead rebutting a comment made by the referee regarding one of Gainesville’s players.

The soon-to-be-former coach was sticking up for his player at his own expense.

"I didn’t like what the ref said," Davis allowed, "and I told him so."

At season’s end when the encased balls and pictures of former players are cleared out by Davis in preparation for the one deemed to fill the seemingly unfillable shoes, one piece of paraphernalia will remain; the red sports coat and black and red tie that the legend himself doned for so many game nights coaching for Big Red.

"I’ll miss working with kids," Davis said. "There’s always been great comraderie here (at Gainesville)."

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