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Contributed photo / From left, Polk County boys' basketball coach Jon Tucker stands by his father David and uncle Gary, who lead the varsity high school basketball programs at Tellico Plains. Including David and Gary's brother Junior as well as Jon's brother Jim, the Tucker family has combined for more than 2,000 wins in their careers as basketball coaches.

The Tucker family's basketball success in East Tennessee is notable, but a combined 2,000-plus victories as varsity high school and middle school coaches are far from all that matters to David, his brothers Gary and Junior, and David's sons Jim and Jon.

The foundation of such achievements are strong relationships with their players, which for the coaches means putting the needs of others first. From hosting golf tournaments to raise money to buy shoes for their players, to feeding an entire opposing team at their house, to helping a player get through the loss of his or her home, the Tuckers have shown their love for those around them with their actions.

"Off the court, I have always wanted my players to know they can come to me for anything," said David, who for 42 years has put on a kids' camp at Tennessee Wesleyan, where he played before graduating in 1976 and was inducted into the Athens college's athletic hall of fame in 2012.

"As a coach, it's important you know who your players are off the court just as much as they are on it," added David, who is in his third season as boys' basketball coach at Tellico Plains High School. "It's important to make every one of those kids realize they are important to the team. There's no way I could have done what I have without great support from communities and especially my wife. She washed team jerseys, fed teams and has always been the rock."

At one point, there were seven members of the Tucker family either coaching or playing against each other in a single game.

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Basketball central to Tucker family

Gary has the most wins of the bunch with 837 at Tellico Plains, where — with David as an assistant — he has led the Lady Bears to a 18-0 record this season in Class A.

David has more wins than any coach in Walker Valley High School girls' basketball history, having led the Lady Mustangs to a record of 253-54 during his nine seasons there, including three 30-plus win seasons and a trip to the Class AA state semifinals. He has a career record of 759-222 and led the Tellico Plains boys to one of just two district championships in program history.

"Looking at what our family has been able to accomplish is wild to me," David said. "We grew up in Tellico Plains off Church Street. We love the game of basketball and all have a burning passion for it still. My brothers and I have always been great friends. We fish and hunt together and always spend time as a family at our cabin and feed basketball ideas off one another."

One of David's assistants at Walker Valley was Junior, who won 329 games as a head coach at Charleston, Sequatchie County, Walker Valley and Whitwell.

Jim and Jon have taken after their father and uncles in both their career pursuits and their acknowledgement of the importance of family support.

Jon became the Polk County boys' head coach at 22 years old in 2016. He was a standout point guard for Walker Valley under Bob Williams and was a part of the Mustangs' state semifinal run in 2009, when they finished with 34 wins.

"We just had our first little girl two months ago, Lane Elizabeth," Jon said. "My wife is my backbone and reminds me of my mother in that aspect. Coaching both baseball and basketball, I am gone over 100 nights a year, but she is the biggest supporter of mine. She is also one of my assistant coaches for basketball. We love this school, these kids and the community, and I hope my little girl has great memories from running around in this gym one day."

For the past 17 years, Jim has coached the middle school boys' and girls' basketball teams at McMinn County's Calhoun Elementary School, which goes up to eighth grade. He is nine years older than Jon, who played for him in his first two seasons as the middle school coach. Like his dad and brother, Jim is a Tennessee Wesleyan grad.

"I love coaching and being able to see these kids grow up because I get to see them from pre-K through eighth grade," Jim said. "My dad taught here for 13 years, my mom was here for 34 years, and my brother and I both went here. This is a special place, and I have been blessed to have a great family."

Basketball may be a major part of their lives, but the Tuckers know there is much more to life than just the game.

"Faith and family always comes first," David said. "Basketball and everything else comes after that. No matter what we won or lost, family is the most important thing. Basketball is just a game, and no one is ever bigger than it. I am truly blessed for all the communities who have shown outstanding support and all the players I have had."

Contact Patrick MacCoon at pmaccoon@timesfreepress.com and follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.

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