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Getting to Know ... Mike Emery

Mike Emery, 47, has been at Norcross High School for 23 years, including the last 10 as athletic director. He recently stepped down to take a new job as the Gwinnett County athletic director.

In this latest installment of "Getting to Know...," Emery talks with staff writer Corey Clark on a variety of topics, ranging from his new job to his days as a basketball player at Hollywood Hills High (Fla.) to his first car.

CC: So when do you start your new job?

ME: I started this week. I've been going back and forth between there and Norcross. I will officially be there full time on Monday.

CC: Have you already started thinking about how much you're going to miss Norcross and being in the high school each day?

ME: Oh, absolutely. And this has been said many times, but 23 years in one place is a long time. So I'll miss walking the halls and being in touch with a lot of kids and the parents. But at the same time, as I told people when I first talked about this job, I'll be in all of the schools now. And I want to meet with all the coaches and all the kids, and a lot of the parents. I want to be in all of the communities. I want to take what I've learned from the Norcross community and meet new people in all of the other communities. And I'll be able to learn from them as well.

CC: Now that you've stepped down as the Norcross AD, I feel like I can ask you this question - honestly, what in the world were you thinking when you hired Eddie Martin?

ME: (laughs) He's been a pretty big disappointment hasn't he? Here's the deal. I coached against Eddie for so long and I could never beat him. So I said, 'Eddie, I could never beat you, so I'm going to hire you instead.' It turned out to be a big mistake, didn't it?

CC: Do you miss coaching at all?

ME: You know, that was the great thing about the staff at Norcross. They would invite me over to help, or watch practice, to participate. They wanted me to be a part of it even though I wasn't actually able to be out there day to day. The coaches were more than accommodating ... so in a way it kept me in the ball game.

CC: When did you grow the beard and why?

ME: I grew the beard more than anything out of laziness in about 1982. And I shaved it one time, in 1984, right before I came to Norcross. There was a movie that was being done about Bear Bryant, called "The Bear." And I had a bit part as a University of Kentucky basketball player in that movie. So I shaved my beard. I was a lot younger back then, so I shaved my beard one time for that. Since then I found out that (former Atlanta Falcons defensive back) Bobby Butler, who has become a good friend of mine, was in that movie as well.

CC: When did you know you wanted to get into coaching?

ME: It was in college. I really had two great role models in high school, two great basketball coaches in high school that I'm still friends with today. And I figured out I wanted to be a coach my second year in college. I played basketball my first couple of years at Oglethorpe. I didn't play a whole lot and I didn't play really well, but I realized I loved the game. And I loved being around the guys and I decided this is what I really want to do.

CC: What position did you play on the basketball court?

ME: I was a point guard.

CC: Were you a pass-first point guard?

ME: Oh yeah, I didn't do much scoring.

CC: So then you could've played with Eddie Martin (who averaged 27 points his senior year at Central Gwinnett)?

ME: I could've played with Eddie. Eddie was one of those guys who would say, 'Get open and I'll fake it to you.' I would just pass to him and then go back and play defense.

CC: You think you could've played with this year's Norcross team?

ME: Oh my gosh, are you kidding? There's no way, but I would've been more than happy to sit on the bench and watch them play and get to experience what those kids are going through.

CC: If you had to karaoke one song in front of the entire Norcross High School, what would it be?

ME: Well, I'd have to hand out earplugs if I was going to be doing any singing. But let's see, it would probably be something bluesy. I'm a blues guy, so maybe a little blues by Keb' Mo', maybe a song called "Shave Your Legs."

CC: What was your first car?

ME: My first car was a 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass. It was brown. I bought it from an elderly guy in south Florida. I bought it in 1977 when I graduated from high school and I had it right up until I graduated from (Oglethorpe) college. It made quite a few trips from Hollywood, Fla., to Atlanta. And it had a great 8-track player, too. It was one of the best 8-track players money could buy.

CC: And it was a babe magnet?

ME: Oh yeah. A '68 Cutlass, driving down the strip in Ft. Lauderdale. Are you kidding? Oh yeah, of course it was.

CC: How excited are you about this new job of yours?

ME: Extremely. I've dedicated 23 years of my life to this school system and in a way I feel like I'm starting over. But I'm in it for the long haul. I'm around kids and sports all day, how bad can that be? I've just been real fortunate and this is a continuation of a very lucky life that I've led.