GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When I began covering high school basketball on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1979, I quickly learned that Bert Jenkins was the dean of high school basketball coaches
For 28-years Bert Jenkins guided Gulfport High School basketball teams to greatness. His 1974-75 Commodores won the state championship posting a perfect 40 and 0 season.
Jenkins guided Gulfport to seven state titles, the last two in 1987 and 1988.
The new gymnasium was named in his honor.
Admirals head coach Owen Miller played on the '87-'88 state championship teams had Bert Jenkins signature emblazoned on the gym floor this past summer.
Miller said, "Such a great man. What a life he lived. Prisoner of war. Was in the Battle of the Bulge. Lost his dream of playing college basketball when he lost his leg at 19. So, he became a coach. Took a huge stand in civil rights. Just did so much in his life and there's so much to remember him by outside of just being our basketball coach. He touched all of us."
In May of 2004 I sat down with coach Jenkins and we discussed his career. He said his first love was basketball and it showed with 866 victories and only 180 defeats.
"I think the association with the players probably was the high point of my career of coaching when I look back, "stated Jenkins. "And the association with the people and the fans. And of course Lil, had done so much for our program I can't start to name things she's done. And then, Gerald Austin, my real good friend and coached with us 19 years and helped our program."
Chris Jackson, who later changed his named to Mahmoud Abdul- Rauf...told me in 2004 that coach Jenkins was special.
"He influenced me more than any coach I ever had, "stated Abdul-Rauf. "He never chose favorites which I really appreciated. He stuck to the fundamentals and his model was, whatever you did seek to perfect it."
Gulfport Admirals athletic director Bryan Caldwell, who played for coach Jenkins, says a memorial service for Bert Jenkins will be held sometime next week. Once the date has been set we'll let the public know.