I have been lucky enough to have learned first hand from six members of the MAIS Hall of Fame. The first one I would like to mention would probably be described as tough or old school. I would like to congratulate coach Dale Watts and the Columbia Cougar boys' basketball team on their MAIS AAA Basketball State Championship.
I played for coach Watts in high school at Parklane Academy. When I continued my education at Southwest Mississippi Community College; he asked me to be his student assistant coach. I could not believe he treated me like I thought real assistant coaches were treated; and not a kid from Southwest. He demanded that I showed up for every game and wore a coat and tie while on the bench. This was when game were played on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. That would mean that I had to give up every weekend for four months. I loved every minute of it and learned so much. Talk about some power house coaches coach Bobby West at Prep, coach Richard Duese at MRA,and coach Ray at Woodland Hills.
When I was at USM they kept changing the pre-requisites to get into the school of education. I called coach Watts he gave me the advice of graduating with a non teaching degree and try the MAIS. I did what he advised. This is the year that he led Parklane to an upset over Prep in the finals of Over All. I don't think even he knows that the upset probably helped get me my first job at Humphreys Academy. His prior experience at Centreville helped me get a job with coach Hurst and Centreville. My second year at Centreville was his first year at Brookhaven. We both were lucky enough to get to play Leake at Leake during south state. We went first and led most of the game; Leake pulled it out 70-63. He called and congratulated me the next morning. Brookhaven played the next night. I looked in the paper and saw that they had made a comeback only to lose a close one. I called him and congratulated him; he said he couldn't take credit he had gotten tossed and Barry Gray finished the game. I coached boys' basketball one year at Centreville, we were lucky enough to have beat Brookhaven. I think that was one of my proudest moments as a coach.
I got out of coaching for 13 years. I would call him during the Christmas holidays every year. I got back into coaching seven years ago. We have talked to each other pretty much every other week since then. I usually go spend a day with him during team camp every summer. As I have gotten older I found out some things. My Dad died when I was fifteen years old. At the end when he knew he was dying; coach Watts went to visit him. He told coach Watts to make a man out of me. Most coaches are able to do more for their players while they play for them; than what they can do after they graduate. Coach Watts did the opposite for me. He has done so much for me in my professional career. The tough, old school coach did what my Dad asked; he has had a big part in the man that I am today. So I would like to take this time to wish coach Watts and the Columbia Cougars good luck in the MAIS Over All Tournament.