GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - From 1979 through the 1989 season I followed the coaching career of Bert Jenkins. He distinguished himself as a highly respected coach, father, husband and most of all...a great person.
I watched how he taught his players, instructing them on how best to attack the opposition, find the open shot and defend the basketball.
He told me in 2004 that he developed his offensive and defensive schemed based on the talent he had.
Jenkins said if the young men who could run and gun, that's the type of offense he would use. If his players weren't that quick, he would devise an attack based on what those players could do best, slow down the offense and play solid defense.
It worked. From the 1961-62 season through the 1988-89 season, Gulfport captured 866 wins and only 180 losses. His teams would raise the state trophy seven times.
Coach Jenkins turned kids into young men. He believed in discipline and if a player or players wouldn't abide by his rules, he would take measures to make sure they did. If they didn't...see you later. That happened during the 1981-82 season. When a player decided to do his own thing and not listen to what Jenkins instructed, that player was reprimanded and kicked off the team. Other Admiral varsity players sided with the player. So what did Jenkins do after the players boycotted practice? He told them they were no longer members of the Gulfport Admirals team. Later when the players realized they made a big mistake and asked Jenkins if they could rejoin the team, he said..No!
During the years between 1979 and 1989, the Mississippi Gulf Coast had many outstanding high school coaches.
Jackie Laird was a force to be reckoned with at Biloxi, Roland Ladner developed top-notch teams at Hancock North Central, David Lipscomb had highly competitive teams at Pascagoula, Eddie Ladner built a solid program at Harrison Central and Bob Cuccaro had outstanding teams at Long Beach. However, there was only one Bert Jenkins.
In that 2004 interview Jenkins said during the off-season he would help younger coaches at opposing schools in developing practice plans. He always wanted to promote basketball.
Young men he coached are now old men, but they too remember the lessons coach Jenkins taught them, lessons that made they better players and better citizens. Many of his former players said Jenkins was like a father to them, including All-American Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who was known as Chris Jackson during his high school days at Gulfport.
Coach Bert Jenkins is a legend and you can show the love you have for The Coach Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m. in the gymnasium named in his honor.