His Last Timeout
SOUTH POINT — When the final horn sounded in the sectional tournament championship game, it marked the end of the season for the South Point Pointers.
The horn sounded louder and longer for head coach Gary Norris.
After 37 years of coaching basketball, Norris has decided it is time to put up his whistle and clipboard.
A no-nonsense coach with humble emotions, Norris said the decision had been running through his mind much like a point guard pushing the ball up and down the court.
“I had thought about it for a while. I just thought it would be a good time. I don’t think you say you’re going to coach to a certain point. You know when it’s time to go,” said Norris.
“It’s been enjoyable. I just think it’s time to look at other things. In all likelihood, I don’t think I’ll coach any more.”
The success story began for Norris as a high school senior when he helped Huntington (W.Va.) Vinson to the state tournament under first-year coach Don Smith.
After a college career at Glenville State, Norris returned to his alma mater as the freshman coach for four seasons under Smith.
Vinson assistant coach Ivan McGlone left the school to become the head football coach at Russell (Ky.) High School and Norris was a varsity assistant for the next 12 years.
When Smith took an administrative position, Norris settled into the head coaching position. During his 10-year stint at Vinson, Norris guided the Tigers to a 182-52 record and won Class AA state championships in 1995 and 1997. His team also made a state appearance in 1991.
“I was fortunate to get into an established program. I graduated from there so I was familiar with people and players. I was fortunate to always be around good people and good players,” said Norris.
When consolidation began running rampant in West Virginia, Vinson combined with Buffalo and Ceredo-Kenova to form Spring Valley and Norris was named the head coach of the new Class AAA program.
His teams were 86-53 in six seasons and qualified for the state tournament in 2000 and 2003.
Norris retired in West Virginia and was hired as the South Point head coach in 2004. After going 10-12 and 10-11 his first two seasons, Norris posted three straight winning records to finish 66-40 at the school.
The Pointers 2007-08 team posted a school-record 20-0 regular season record and Norris was honored by being selected the Associated Press Division III state “Coach of the Year.”
Norris downplayed his record, awards and accomplishments.
“I’ve always had good players. Players win games. Coaches don’t win games,” said Norris.
“Your primary job is to give them a chance and put them in a position to win. What you like is to see your players to do well after they’re finished playing.”
Now that Norris has decided his coaching days are over, he admits he’s not sure how he will handle the extra time or being absent when the next season begins.
“I’ve done this a long time. I don’t know. I’ve never experienced it,” said Norris. “That what I’m kind of anxious to see how it goes when November rolls around and I see how much time I have on my hands.
“I’m sure I’ll miss it, but there comes a point when your time means a lot to you.”
Even though Norris’ career has spanned nearly 40 years, he said there hasn’t been as much change in the game as people might think. He said players need discipline even if styles and talents are different.
“From year to year, you don’t pay much attention to it,” said Norris.
“Kids are much quicker and stronger. The game has changed some, but not that much on the high school level. It was always fun to go out and make the preparation. I enjoyed the practices as much as the game.”
As is the case with any job — especially coaching — there are other people who help generate the program’s success.
“It’s been good to me. I’ve met so many good people. I don’t think anyone knows how many good people there are in high school athletics and coaching.
“The first four seasons I had Matt Tomlinson, and I’ve had Justin Eaches and Greg Wellman as assistants. I’ve been fortunate to have good assistant coaches. They’re very good, knowledgeable coaches,” said Norris.
“But that’s the great thing about coaching. You meet good people everywhere you go. The players, the parents, teachers, administrators, coaches, fans, boosters, there are just so many good people out there.”
And those good people include Gary Norris.
Head Coaching Career Record
School Yrs W L
Huntington Vinson 10 182 52
Spring Valley 6 86 53
South Point 5 66 40
Totals 21 334 145