One of the big advantages of having a living legend coaching at your school is that you never know who might stroll into the gym to watch him coach.
The school would be Heritage High School, where I teach United States history to 11th-graders. The living legend would be Ronald Bradley, who is in his first season as coach of the boys' basketball team here at our school.
Yes, that Ronald Bradley - the one who has done two tours of duty at Newton High; the one who, during his first administration, won the 1964 State Championship and a world record 129 straight home games; the one who, during his second term, took the Rams to the Final Four in the state's highest classification; the one who is a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and has won more games than any other coach in Georgia history.
Yeah, him. He is coaching at Heritage and, because he is, we get lots and lots of interesting people at our games; people I have known forever but haven't seen in quite a while.
Saturday afternoon, for instance, Don Briscoe walked into the gym. Don Briscoe doesn't know it, but he is one of my favorite people in the world and has had quite an impact on my life. The Briscoes are old Covington people. (That means they know what the term "Blab Slab" means, if you are wondering if you qualify.)
His daddy was a veterinarian when I was in school and his mother was a substitute teacher. I will never forget the awful day in Mrs. Calloway's 10th grade English class when she took up the note from me that Rosemary Robertson was trying to pass to Bob Lunsford, but that's another story for another day.
Don's brother David did one of the coolest things I have ever seen. It was on a Saturday morning, during Midget Basketball - a day-long training program for future Rams. He snuck up behind Coach Bradley - the same legendary Coach Bradley whose presence at our school precipitated this column - and blew Coach's whistle. On three different occasions.
You need to understand that for those of us who were under his rather severe tutelage, that was akin to tugging on Superman's cape. You just didn't do that, in other words. But David was 7 and fearless, so he did - and Coach Bradley had no idea how to respond. I guess you can't put a 7-year-old on the line and make him run a million suicides.
But we were talking about Don, who is a local accountant by trade - one who has an unparalleled passion for Georgia high school sports and its history and traditions.
Don was a member of the Newton High basketball team in 1979. I was a lowly ninth-grade coach and was pretty close to Don and a few of his running mates - like Ronnie Byrd who would actually walk on at Georgia during the Hugh Durham days.
Almost every morning, during that entire school year, Don and his buddies, and I am sure they don't remember, would come by my room and read the newspaper with me and shoot the breeze. Our main topic of conversation was always Lewis Grizzard's column and I can still see Don clutching that newsprint in his hands, enthusiastically reading his favorite lines from Grizzard's commentary.
That stuck with me. I thought that it was the coolest thing in the world - writing stuff in the paper that such a wide cross section of people could read and relate to. I told myself that one day I would write stuff that people like Don Briscoe would want to read and share with their buddies.
And one day I might. I am still young.
Don was a journalist himself - sports editor of the school paper if memory serves me correctly - and once wrote an article about me in which he called me a "controversial figure." Now who could ever picture me as a controversial figure?
I'm not sure what Don meant by that, but I think he got called into the principal's office and chastised for it.
A lot of the time I spent with Don and his buddies involved sharing stories about another local coaching legend, Benny Rogers. Don and Ronnie had both played for Coach Rogers, who later went on to coach state championship girls' teams, when he was a junior varsity coach at Newton High. They had a great relationship with Benny, who was quite an interesting character - and when the guys got started telling stories about him they could go on forever.
Don has been involved in a couple of really fascinating projects. He and his cohorts have researched and chronicled the scores of every high school football game ever played in Georgia. Every one. I ain't making this up, y'all. They really have. Now they are working on basketball.
If there was a downside to sitting with Don at the game Saturday, it was that I spent so much time visiting that I didn't do as much watching as I needed to.
Oh, well. That's the price you pay when you have a living legend coaching at your school. Come see us when you get a chance.
The record? 6-2 so far, but they are just getting started.