Updated at 11 p.m. on May 22, 2019 to correct Jerry Jones coaching at Westside High School in Rocky Face, Georgia, not Macon, and remove Northwest Whitfield as one of Jones' coaching jobs.
Longtime local high school basketball coach Jerry Jones died Wednesday after a lengthy illness.
Jones, who was 76, retired in July 2018 after 52 seasons on the bench, most spent in Catoosa County at Ringgold and most recently at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. He won more than 600 games and affected many more hundreds of people — whether he intended to or not — with his intense and often unusual coaching style.
Former Ridgeland boys' basketball coach Chris Edge recalled one of his first encounters with Jones during a game: "It was LFO versus Ridgeland my first year. Jerry was coaching his guys hard in the second quarter, and I was focused on our guys. I am trying to instruct my point guard on our end of the court when I start having trouble seeing him.
"I am shocked to see that Jerry is on our side of halfcourt coaching one of his guys. I start saying something to the official about Jerry coaching from my bench, and Jerry looks at me and smiles and says, 'I am sorry, Coach'. The next morning in church — we attended the same church — he and I had a big laugh about how next time I was just going to let him coach my guys, too.
"He was always willing to help us young coaches out. He would compete his butt off during the game, but after the game he was the kindest man in the profession."
Jones, a 1961 Dalton High School graduate, had two stints at Ringgold and LFO in addition to stops at Jordan High School in Columbus, Westside High School in Rocky Face and North Georgia Christian School. The 31 total years he spent at LFO were the most at one school, and LFO honored Jones by renaming the basketball court after him in 2010.
Jones' past few seasons were short on wins, but his teams never had a drop in intensity, something in which Jones always took pride. The coach's sense of humor never wavered in his final few seasons, despite the many losses.
"Counting Lakeview and Ringgold I've had around 600 wins — but we had a lot of losses in the last few years," he said with a laugh when announcing his retirement. "I feel we held our own, though, for the most part. I hope my teams will always be remembered for how hard they played."
As of Wednesday night, funeral arrangements had not been announced.