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Dallas Era ends at Wartburg

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By Brian Langley

When Wartburg hits the court at Byrdstown this Saturday night to open up their 2007-08 high school basketball season, a familiar face won't be seen on the Lady Bulldog bench.

Dallas Davis, an East Tennessee coaching legend has finished up his coaching career, which spanned over four decades.

He started his high school career nearly 30 years ago when he took over for Wanda Lane back in 1979. He either coached the girls team, the boys team or both teams during the next 28 years.

Davis cut his teeth coaching basketball for three years at Wartburg Elementary School and won 37 games before he headed to the high school ranks. He actually started coaching at the age of 17 when he worked with junior pro teams and bitty basketball in Sparta when he went to college as a player at Tennessee Tech.

"I look back now and see a ton of mistakes I made as a young coach. Early in my development, coaching was a part of my life. Coaching has always been a part of me," explained Davis.

"I never really dreamed that I would stay in coaching as long as I did. I just took it one year at a time. I think the Lord put me in to teaching and that is where he kept me."

While most coaches are judged by the wins and losses, Davis has always measured his success by self-gratification.

"I've always just said that success is having that self-gratification knowing that you did the best you possibly could with what you had. I'm very happy with my career, because I set goals and I've accomplished most of the goals,"

Compiling between 400 and 500 career wins, Davis was best known in the high school ranks for his matchup zone defense he used for nearly 20 years. He took pride in trying to frustrate the opposing offense and his players always loved playing it.

"The matchup zone started with Nellie Smith, Lynette Lloyd, Artie Beasley, Karen Webb and that bunch. We had a small team and had some mismatch problems and I put it in for that reason. I got the base stuff from Coach Lee Linder at York, but I've tweaked it since then, put in my own rules, and adjusted it based on the people I had from year to year," explained Davis.

"The kids really enjoyed the matchup, because sometimes it created confusion for teams that had never faced it before. They couldn't tell if we were in man or if we were in zone. There were times that the kids would switch up and play straight man when the team was running a zone pattern."

After putting together a very successful opening decade in his coaching career, Davis went through some lean years during the early 1990's. He stayed the course, however, and turned the program back around and guided the Lady Bulldogs to some of their best seasons from 1994 until his last season, when he won 17 games and led his team to the regional semifinals.

Of his 28 seasons coaching high school, 7 of those were spent with Davis pulling double duty. He probably has his finest season during that time when he won both District 2-A Championships.

"I had great kids when I coached both teams, but if I hadn't I probably wouldn't be around to do this story. There has been nights I have coached four ball games, and that was very tiresome. I could feel it take a toll on me before I got out," said Davis.

Just five seasons later, Davis also struggled through a winless season with both teams. However, he really enjoyed coaching those teams despite failing to get a win during the 1992-93 season.

"As the good book teaches, the Good Lord isn't going to give you anything that you can't handle. I had to be patient, because we had some young players and we had some down years. But we were still successful and the reason we were successful is that we always strived to gain that self-gratification. We didn't win very many games there for awhile. It was no reflection on the kids. The kids worked hard. They did not want to lose, so they came into practice and it was tough," said Davis.

"A lot of that time we were down, we were double A and that is very tough. We were the smallest double A school in the state of Tennessee."

Although he coached in a lot of big games and had a lot of huge wins through the years, Davis really enjoyed practice and watching his players and teams develop.

"What I looked for is the teams that really came in and practiced hard. There was a lot of teams that when we were going through that losing time, they stand out the most. They were dedicated and they were ready for practice every day. They knew that they had to work hard," said Davis.

"I thoroughly enjoyed practice. I loved getting the kids out there, working with them and watching them improve."

Having played point guard in college at Tennessee Tech, Davis expected a lot out of his point guards and his players normally came through for him.

"I played point in college and our coach really stressed that the point guard was the head of the body. I always looked at it and everybody that played point guard for me had to be mentally tough, because I stayed on them more than anybody else," said Davis.

Despite all his success, which included over 20 regional tournament appearances, half-a-dozen district championships and five sub-state berths during his coaching career at Wartburg, he still never got to reach his ultimate goal-a state tournament.

"One of my goals that we did not accomplish was not going to the big house. There is so many factors getting to the state tournament. I had a team in '88 that knocked on the door pretty strong that almost got to the state. That is one of the best teams that has been through this school. That team (1988) should have been there (state), and I take the blame for that. Sometimes you can get caught up in the hoopla," offered Davis.

"I look back and I think I could have done this better or I could have done that better and we might have made it, but ultimately, it was not meant to be."

With plenty of missed chances in the post-season that could have netted him a trip or two to the state tournament, Davis always prepared his players for the big letdown.

"I always told my players, the further you go, the harder it hurts," said Davis.

He saw his good friend Fred Snow take Oakdale to the state back in 1990 and then later on watched as Carmen Hines took Coalfield, a team he swept in the regular season, to the big dance in 2005. He led five different teams to the sub-state, but tough luck (Oneida's Amanda Jackson hitting a game-winning shot from halfcourt in 2000 knocked Wartburg out in the sectionals; while Unaka stalled the ball on the Bulldogs in a 22-21 upset; and then there was the sub-state defeat in two overtimes to Hampton back in the early 1980's) always seemed to follow.

"I can't really tell you anything about my wins, but I can tell you about my losses. One of the most heart-breaking losses that I ever suffered was that game-winning halfcourt shot by Amanda Jackson in the sub-state that kept us from going to the state tournament," offered Davis.

While Davis might have never reached the state tournament, not many high school coaches can say they coached in the same gym that is named after them. The Dallas Reed Davis Gymnasium was honored in his name towards the end of the 2005 season.

"The Lord has blessed me with a lot of talent here and that is the reason we have won some games here. I'm probably my own worst critic, because I really beat myself to death on why we lost. I always looked at a loss as a failure by me," said Davis.

It was the losses that Davis recounts more than the wins, because he took each defeat personal. He also took it as a challenge to get his team ready to bounce back after a tough loss.

"Winning has always been fun, but I've grown to realize you can't stay at the top very long, because the competition is so tough and somebody is going to knock you off. It is that fall that you have to prepare your team for in order to get them back up. I always wondered how I was going to get my team ready for the next game after a loss. We always took a loss as a challenge and if we were losing our practices became pretty tough. Winning is easy, it is how you handle success that is the most important thing," said Davis.

Some of his most treasured memories were the friendships and relationships he built with his coaching colleagues and his players.

One friendship in particular has grown strong during his coaching career. He and Oakdale Lady Eagle head coach Fred Snow have competed against each other for nearly 30 years and the two have faced each other 64 times.

The two have the utmost respect for each other and a very special bond.

"Coach (Fred) Snow is a very special person. He is a very dear friend of mine and we grew up together in the coaching ranks. We kind of leaned on each other early on. He has helped me a great deal in coaching and I just think the world of Coach Snow. We even went to camps together. One time we took one bus and went out to Richland High School together. His kids rode the bus, my kids rode the bus and you couldn't tell that we were competitive until we got on the floor," said Davis.

Snow feels the same way about Davis.

"Of the people that were coaching when I started, there is not very many left. He (Davis) is one of the people that we always enjoyed competing with. We were always friends, shake hands and drink a coke together after the game was over," said Snow.

"Dallas is a real student of the game. He is a technician. He would prepare his girls to play against everybody every game. He did a really good job of getting his players to understand the game and I think that was the biggest impact he brought to his team."

Among some of the shots that stand out in his coaching career was when Miriam Diden drove the length of the court and hit a layup to beat Coalfield. Connie Schultz had a potential game-winning shot that went in and came out against the state's #3-ranked Class AAA McMinn Central. Playing Gatlinburg-Pittman at TSD in the regional semifinals early in the 1980's, Lorrie Ellis scored on a layup with about two seconds left to put Wartburg into the sub-state.

Through half his time as Wartburg coach, Betty Redmon has been right by his side as a devoted assistant coach. The two teamed up to win well over 200 games and three district titles.

"I can't say enough about Coach (Betty) Redmon. She is one of the main reasons for our success here at Wartburg. She is a dear friend, a hard worker, and very loyal to this program," said Davis.

"Coach Redmon is a big reason a lot of our goals were accomplished. I really enjoyed all my years here as basketball coach. There was a lot of talent rode through here and we had some outstanding kids that worked so, so hard. I think we developed some outstanding citizens."

Davis always wanted his teams to be respected and he wants to be remembered as a hard worker.

"I wanted to put a team on the floor each night that when I walked off the floor that we had respect of the opposing team and that we did things the right way. I wanted my teams to be known for playing basketball hard and we played by the rules. I wanted to build this program into one that they thought of with respect. I wanted a program that when teams came to our place that they really, really knew that they had a game on their hands," said Davis.

"I want to be remembered as a person who worked the kids very hard and who enjoyed coaching the game of basketball and worked very hard at it."

It was kind ironic that during his final season on the bench, Davis saw his counterpart Joe Layne take the Bulldogs the school's first-ever state tournament, after knocking on the door so many times himself.

Davis hinted that he still has some games left to coach in his body, but right now his attention is focused on being the Central High School Principal.

"I had a person tell me a long time ago, that when coaching becomes not being fun and when you didn't enjoy it you need to get out. I thoroughly enjoyed my last year of coaching. I had a great time and we were very competitive. We got to the semifinals of the region and played the state runner-up and got beat by 8 points, so I was real pleased," said Davis.

"I really have a lot of responsibility as the Central High School Principal and I take that job very serious."

Davis earned the nickname 'The Legend' and has lived up to that name. A legend that will never be forgotten by Bulldog basketball fans.

Davis for Davis

Wartburg native Jason Davis gets the opportunity to take over the program from Davis and he is excited as he makes the move up from the middle school ranks.

"We're looking forward to getting off to good start early in the season. We have a great schedule planned this year, so we're just kind of looking forward to the challenge that it is going to bring," said Davis, who coached the last three seasons at Central Middle School.

Davis said Dallas has helped make the transition a lot smoother.

"He (Davis) has been great through the whole transition. Any time I've had any questions or anything that has come up that I didn't know how to handle, he has been right there to help out, so it has been really good," said Davis.

Despite following a basketball legend at Wartburg, Davis says he has put more pressure on himself than what other people will.

"The most pressure that I feel comes from, just the fact, we have a great group of kids and I don't want to let them down and I know they don't want to let me down. That is where we build from," said Davis.

Davis said he will work as hard as he ever has to help the Lady Bulldogs win games.

"I've always kind of had a sickness with working real hard at this (coaching) and trying to do the best I can and that hasn't changed. I want us to play as hard we as we can and to win every game that we can," offered Davis.

Davis will be joined on the bench this season by former Harriman High standout Sara Redmon.

"She (Redmon) has been a lot of help. Things are going real well so far and I'm real pleased with the job she is doing," said Davis.

What is the biggest difference in the middle school and high school level?

"The middle school season is more of a sprint with it being shorter. The high school season is kind of more of a marathon and you've got to plan it as such," replied Davis.

Davis at Sunbright

Long-time Sunbright Lady Tiger middle school coach Allen Davis is getting his first shot as the high school head coach as he takes over for Brent Shoemaker, who has joined the staff at Scott County High School as a boys assistant. Shoemaker was 18-34 in two years at Sunbright.

"I'm excited. High school level, middle school level, it doesn't matter because it's basketball. I know I've got it cut out for me," said Davis.

A younger brother of Dallas, Allen wants to make a name for himself on the high school level.

"I'm trying to start my own tradition. Dallas has always been called a legend and I agree with that. I've learned a lot from him. I've been watching him coach for 30-something years. He has forgot more basketball than I will ever know," explained Davis.

Ironically, Davis will be joined on the bench by a former player for Dallas Davis in Ashley Human Davis. Also, former Lady Tiger Sarah Branstetter is helping out this season.

Davis is also keeping his job as the coach of the Subright Junior High Lady Tigers.

Davis has placed a lot of expectations on himself and his team.

"We're going to work hard, gain confidence and take it from there. If they will come back into my philosophy of basketball, we're going to be alright. My expectations are high. I have just got to get the girls to get my philosophy. I'm there (Sunbright) until someone knocks me off," Davis added.

McKinney at Coalfield

Ted McKinney takes over the Coalfield High School basketball program from Ronnie Wilson, who stepped down after 8 seasons and 90 wins, including a 1991 District Championship.

"I'm very excited about taking over the high school program. Ronnie (Wilson) did a great job here at Coalfield. It is an honor to coach here at Coalfield," said McKinney McKinney wants to wins right now.

"The kids are working hard.We're very young this year, but our future looks good. Right now, I'm just wanting to win some ball games. I'm trying to get kids to learn how to win a basketball game," McKinney remarked.

McKinney expects a lot from his team.

"There is no expectations on us from a lot people, but I put a lot of expectations on myself and the kids. I've never coached a team that has not been a winning team and I just want the kids to get it in them that it kills them to lose," said McKinney.