Getting to Know … Gerald Arnold

Gerald Arnold, 57, is set to begin his first year as head coach of the Peachtree Ridge boys basketball team. The veteran coach, who spent 11 years at Buford, has been in the profession since 1970.

He and his wife Elizabeth have been married for 30 years and they have two grown children.

In this latest installment of "Getting to know ...," Arnold talks with staff writer Corey Clark on a variety of topics, ranging from his Lions' chances this season to the Kennedy assassination.

CC: Did you do anything exciting for your 30th wedding anniversary?

GA: It wasn't quite like we expected. This summer, we were planning on going on a cruise, but last spring my wife was diagnosed with cancer. That was the bad news. The good news is that there was a surgery, chemotherapy and now she's doing great. They were able to remove the cancer. So yeah, we had to rethink our anniversary plans.

CC: How hard is it, as a spouse, to sit there and watch someone you love suffer? Is it a helpless feeling?

GA: There's not much you can do. You just have to be supportive. During the spring and summer, I tried to be available when necessary to go to the doctors with her, but there wasn't a whole lot I could do. So you just have to be supportive.

CC: And you have to be strong for her, right?

GA: No question about that. It's really a balance, though. She knows I care, obviously. But I have to continue to cut the grass, and even do things that I haven't typically done in the past. But I owed it to her. She has carried me for the past 30 years.

CC: How good is Peachtree Ridge going to be this year?

GA: I certainly feel like we're going to be much better. I'm excited about the possibilities. When you talk about Peachtree Ridge basketball, you have to talk about Zach Graham. He's a super football player (he plays quarterback), and in basketball, he's the guy. He's a junior and he can do a lot of things with the basketball. He's a D-I player without a doubt and he is getting widely recruited.

CC: Is it tough to watch him, and fellow basketball player Sidney Haynes, out on the football field? Are you constantly crossing your fingers?

GA: Well, I'll be honest. I've got a lot of experience with that. I worked for 11 years at Buford and we always had good football players on our team. Really good football players, like Tim Wansley. So I'm accustomed to that. And there's another name you can add in there, another football player that's going to help a lot - Cameron Heyward. He is a tremendous football player, and for a guy his size, 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, he is a great basketball player, too. He's a big body and he plays so hard. He gives us that inside look that maybe we've missed the last few years.

CC: Where were you when Kennedy was shot?

GA: I was sitting in Spanish class. I was a sophomore in high school and the principal came over the intercom and said the president had been shot and they were waiting to get more news from Dallas. Then before class was over, he came back on and said the president was dead. We were stunned. It had a profound effect on the school. That was the defining moment of our lifetime, I think. It was the first really big national event that affected me personally. And school was closed for a while. And I remember watching TV a couple of days later when Jack Ruby shot Oswald. And that whole series of events, all the way through the funeral, had a profound impact on all of us. A group of friends came over to my house and we all watched the funeral. It was like my fathers' generation's Pearl Harbor. It had that kind of effect.

CC: Do you think Oswald acted alone?

GA: I don't think so. The Warren Commission said he did, but now with the Zapruder film and so much evidence and speculation over the years, I'm afraid it was a conspiracy in some way.

CC: Is there anything else you almost did besides coach?

GA: Actually, from the time I was a sophomore in high school, we had an assignment in English class to write a career paper - what I'd like to do when I grow up - I wrote I would like to teach American history and coach in high school. I've been focused on that since I was 15-years-old. In high school, I worked part-time jobs, and I did the same thing in college. I did a lot of different things, but my goal was to graduate and do what I'm doing right now. And I had a great career. I started in 1970, retired in 2002, and then here I am a head coach again and working full time at Peachtree Ridge. And after all these years, I still love what I'm doing. I knew all along there were other things I could do to make more money, but I'm doing what I always wanted to do.

"Getting to know" is a weekly installment that runs every Friday.