800th win

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 6, 2014

Coach Jerry Davis recently earned his 800th win.

Coach Jerry Davis recently earned his 800th win.

Jerry Davis, current head coach for the Pleasant Home Lady Eagles, won his 800th game as a varsity head coach Tuesday night against the Red Level Tigers.


Davis grew up in Crestview, Fla., and played college basketball at Chipola Junior College in Marianna. Davis played for Milton Johnson while at Chipola, who would go on to be the all-time “winningest” coach in Florida junior college history. Davis said while playing for Johnson that he hated him as a coach, but Johnson would later be one of the first people he called about coaching.


“I wanted to go to Auburn, but they wanted to red-shirt me and I didn’t know what that meant,” Davis said. “I found out it was going to school for five years to play for four years, and I didn’t like that idea. I had the opportunity to play basketball and football at several SEC schools, but when it got right down to it, Chipola wasn’t that far from home and I was in love. So I stayed there it all worked out, and I wound up marrying my high school sweetheart. I got hurt at Chipola playing golf, and had some smaller schools I could have gone on to. That pretty much ended my athletic career. I went on to Florida State, and I was in political science. My daddy’s intentions for me where to be a lawyer, but I never wanted to be a lawyer. I had an uncle that had been a coach for Laural Hill, and I was more along the lines of him. Then my daddy got sent to Vietnam for nine months, as a civilian for the federal government, and my uncle called me and said, ‘Hey go ahead and get into coaching if you want to.’ He said, ‘I’ll take care of your daddy.’”


Davis got his coaching career started at Rickards High School in Tallahassee, as a volunteer, during his senior year at Florida State. He would be hired as an assistant coach the following year at Rickards. Where he spent four years.


“On the same night Rickards called me, Cliff Ellis called me, and offered me a job as coach of the B-team in Ocala,” Davis said. “It wasn’t really a hard decision since my fiancé was still at Florida State, so I stayed there and coached. My daddy was never really happy with me getting into coaching. He was proud of me once we started having success. He had taught and coached himself, and he said all he did was borrow money from his daddy to live.”


After Rickards Davis picked up his first head coach job at a small school south of Tallahassee, Wakulla High School. Davis spent six seasons at Wakulla, winning the state championship in his fifth year. Davis led the Wakulla to two state playoffs, including a 1980 state championship.  Before Davis arrived at Wakulla, the team had never had a winning basketball season.


“Those first four years as an assistant really helped me out a lot,” Davis said. “I came in like a lot of young people do, and thought I knew everything and I knew nothing. My first two years at Wakulla I just did what we did at Rickards, and we won 20 games in the second season alone.”


After a very successful stint at Wakulla, Davis said he was offered a job by Grand Ridge, one of the largest 1A schools in Florida. Grand Ridge is in Jackson County, Fla., which Davis said has some of the best small school basketball teams in the country. The county has 39 state titles among six schools. Davis spent 17 years as the head coach of Grand Ridge, leading the team to 10 sectional finals, six final four appearances, and two state championships. The first came in 1986 with an 84-80 victory over Hawthorne, and the second came in 1989 with a 71-58 win over Brunson. Davis finished at Grand Ridge with a 484-162 record.


In 1998 Davis was inducted into the Florida Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame, and in 2010 Davis was inducted into the Florida Association of Basketball Coaches “Court of Legends” Hall of Fame. The latter Davis considers it to be an extreme honor.


“It was an honor,” Davis said. “It’s not just high school, it includes college and pro players and coaches. Billy Donovan was inducted a few years after I was.”


The Orlando Sentinel named Davis one of the Top-10 best basketball coaches in Florida history in 2003.


Davis says even after all these years of coaching, he is still learning new things about the game every day.


“That is the beauty of this game,” Davis said. “There are many different ways to play this game, and at small schools you can’t implement a system really because you don’t know what kind of players you will have each year. You are constantly changing the way you do things according to what your players do best.”


Davis said during his time as a high school basketball coach that he has had the opportunities to coach at the college level, but he and his wife Maria were interested in starting a family.


“We didn’t have kids yet, but we wanted to,” Davis said. “I knew a lot of the coaches in the college ranks, and most of them weren’t married or were divorced. So I stayed at the high school level.”


After leaving Grand Ridge, Davis went on to coach at Ponce de Leon and then Vernon.


In 2004 Jerry Davis took over as the varsity boys’ head coach in Pleasant Home. He coached the boys until 2012, and then took over as the varsity girls’ coach in 2013. At small schools, Davis said, you couldn’t avoid people, because there isn’t anyone below you. When you start having success the schools your size don’t want to play you, so you have to play against bigger schools. Davis said he loves Pleasant Home and supports the Eagles in anything they compete at.


“Anything Pleasant Home does I’m there to support them,” Davis said. “A lot of coaches aren’t like that.”



“Covington County has one of the best school systems in Alabama, by far,” Davis said. “The things that people complain about here are very insignificant compared to things I’ve had to deal with at previous schools. I could take people to places where they would dig their way back home with a spoon just to get out of there.”


Even with all the accomplishments on the court, Davis said the thing that has impacted his life and career most is when he was saved in 1976.


“Christ became a big part of it then, and that’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Davis said. “I’m sure there are a lot of folks out there that would see me out there on the court, and think this guys doesn’t know Christ. I’ve become more mild mannered since coming to Alabama,” Davis said with a laugh.


Davis said his coaching style has changed over the years.


“I don’t run the traditional drills much anymore, because they don’t fit in to how we play,” Davis said. “I don’t make them run, because I don’t see the point in it. I bet over all my years of coaching I’ve only lost a handful of games because of kids not being in shape, and those were early in the season. They will get themselves into shape if they are doing the right things, so I don’t have to run them to death.”


Davis said also, that he has been very fortunate over the years with good job opportunities, and that he has great assistant coaches at Pleasant Home now.


Davis and the Pleasant Home Lady Eagles will be back in action Tues., Dec. 9, against the Straughn Lady Tigers in Straughn.