Thursday, May 28, 2009
Legacy of respect
By BARRY BURLESON
Jessie Terry has coached more than 900 wins but that’s not how he wants to be remembered.
“To me, it’s not about wins and losses,” said the Ashland head basketball coach, who is retiring after 33 years in the profession. “It’s about teaching life’s values. The most important thing is the kids, their well being and helping them be successful in life.
“I want my legacy to be that I was fair and honest and I coached not for myself but for the kids.”
He has been a head coach 28 years, 26 of those at Ashland, where he was a star basketball player himself. He once scored 39 points in a game, but he went to Rust College on a baseball scholarship.
“This (Ashland) is home,” Terry said. “I always wanted to come home and give something back.
“When I first started playing basketball, I was the team captain, and one of my goals was to be a head coach someday. I enjoy seeing kids be successful.”
Terry began his coaching career at Ashland, made brief stops in Oxford and Senatobia, then returned to his Benton County home. As head coach (girls and boys), his career record is 904-390.
He left his Ashland job in the early ’90s after his nephew, Keenon Terry, was killed in a car accident on graduation night.
“He was a great kid,” Terry said. “It hit me so hard. I just wanted to get away for awhile.”
But seven years later his heart led him back to his hometown.
“I came back for our kids here at Ashland,” Terry said. “There was too much negative stuff out there about our kids. I wanted to turn it around and we did that.
“Now everywhere we go, people say our kids are well-mannered and respectful. I love to win, but winning is not the most important part.”
His resume is filled with coaching accomplishments, the highlights being state runner-up finishes with the Ashland boys in 1982-83 as an assistant coach and in 1984-85 and 2001-02 as head coach. District championships, success in the north half tournament and state tournament berths have been a norm. His Lady Devils won the first-ever Bi-County Basketball Tournament crown in December 2004 at Rust College.
He has received numerous coach of the year honors at the district and region levels and was a Mississippi all-star team coach in 2002. He will coach the Northeast Mississippi 1A-2A boys all-star team this weekend at Northeast Community College in Booneville.
He said his brother Johnny has had the most influence on his life.
“He’s been by my side all the way,” Terry said. “Even when I was small, he would go to games and take me with him. That’s how I got motivated to do this.”
Another influence was William Henley of Holly Springs, now retired. Terry said he remembers watching Henley coach at Old Salem in Benton County.
“I didn’t play for him, but I liked his style,” Terry said. “He was a strong disciplinarian.”
Some of his coaching colleagues who he admires the most include Norris Ashley, Zane Hale and Sam Ritchie.
He and his wife Alberta have two sons, Jawaun (married to Megan), and Tavis (married to Gheri). They’re also grandparents. Jawaun and Megan have two children, Shania and Markelon.
“I want to give special respect and thanks to my wife Alberta for her support over the years,” he said.
Throughout his long career, Terry was ejected from a game just once.
“Now I’ve gotten several technicals,” said Terry, laughing.
“But for the most part, I’ve been able to keep my cool. You being the coach, you have to be the leader. Discipline always start with the coach. I knew if I got out of control, my kids would be out of control.”
A retirement banquet honoring Terry, principal John Bostick and alternative school director G.T. Thompson was held May 15 at Ashland. All three graduated high school together and all three attended Rust College together.
At the recent athletic banquet, about 30 Ashland High School graduates came back to pay their respects to Terry upon his retirement.
“That meant a lot to me,” he said, “and others said they would have been here if they had known it earlier.”
Sandricka Bowen, a standout player for the Lady Blue Devils and a member of this year’s senior class at Ashland, knows firsthand why they all appreciate Coach Terry.
“He’s a great mentor, a great coach and a great leader,” she said. “Lots of people look up to him. He would always do whatever he could to help us.”
Terry, in turn, gave her a big hug.
“That’s the way I want to be remembered - a person who gave respect and was respected for the most part,” he said.
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