Staff Photo: John Bohn Peachtree Ridge girls basketball assistant coach Jim Clanahan, is the dad of head girls coach James Clanahan.
Peachtree Ridge assistant girls basketball coach Jim Clanahan has spent most of the last 30-plus years teaching and coaching in Gwinnett. He officially retired from South Gwinnett in 2005, but hasn't really quit. This year, his son James, asked him to be one of his assistants.
In this installment of "Getting to Know ... ," Clanahan talks to staff writer Christine Troyke about a variery of topics, including playing for Bear Bryant at Alabama, his penchant for giving quizzes and the growth of Gwinnett since he moved here in the late '70s.
CT: What's the total number of schools up to that you've taught and/or coached at?
JC: Gosh, let's see, in Gwinnett, I was the head coach at Parkview and then at Central Gwinnett. Boys. Then I was an assistant to Kent Doehrman at Meadowcreek. He's my best friend. He was actaully my assistant at Central. I was over there about nine years.
We had always lived in Snellville. (James) graduated (from Parkview) and went on to college. I stayed there and then left for South Gwinnett as department chair for social studies. And helped Roger Fleetwood.
I retired out of South and then came over here (to Peachtree Ridge) part-time for a couple years. In the meantime we moved to Buford. In fact, one year I drove back and forth from Buford to South, working part-time. Then there was a part-time position here, so I took that for a couple years.
The county laid off part-timers, so then last year I worked full-time in Birmingham.
We're from Alabama. I worked at a high school there for four years and we moved to Georgia. We wanted to move back a couple years ago. So I took a job in Birmingham and we tried to sell our house here and had no luck. You can imagine. Well, the economy got even worse so we let that go.
So, I guess, four schools in Gwinnett and two in Alabama. It's been 30-something years. I don't know. I know when I retired I was 32 years in and that was in '05.
CT: Did you always teach the same subject?
JC: Yes, social studies.
CT: I Googled your name and one of the first things that came up was a "Rate my Teacher" page from your days at South, around 2003-4. They all said the same thing -- excellent teacher, too many quizzes.
JC: (laughing heartily) Yeah, that would be right.
Really, I can say, I've been here a long time and I've had nothing but positive experiences here in Gwinnett, whether I was at Parkview or Central or Meadowcreek or here. Really, I've had a nice career teaching and coaching. In Alabama, as well.
I really enjoyed Birmingham last year. I was in southwest Jefferson County at Hueytown.
It was a nice change and I really enjoyed the kids. But I've liked the kids wherever I've been. I've been fortunate.
CT: You've coached boys and girls basketball?
JC: This is the first time I've ever coached girls. He asked me last spring what I was going to do. I wasn't going to go back to (Birmingham) since I couldn't sell the house. I thought I'd retire.
He said, 'Would you help me out?'
I said, sure. He's got a good group of girls and I like them. I've never coached girls before. I have a daughter (Laura) that's older than him that played at Brookwood. So I've been to girls games (smiling), but I've never really coached them.
CT: Was the goal for you always teaching and coaching?
JC: Yeah. Moving here to such a good school system as Gwinnett and being a head coach, I really enjoyed that. But then when your kids get older, all of a sudden they're starting to play college ball and you want to be there to watch them.
Things changed on that. I've had some friends of mine that had kids at schools and they were coaching and didn't ever see their kids play.
James played 128 college games and I saw 124. I missed four. He was sick for two of them. And there were a couple others I had car troubles.
I enjoyed watching him play and I've got a younger son (Michael) who has already graduated from college. He's in grad school right now. Same thing with him. But now, he was a football player.
CT: A lot fewer games to go to.
JC: When you're at North Georgia on Monday night, at Macon on Wednesday and Berry on Friday. ... that puts some miles on the car.CT: You were a football player in college. Did you play basketball in high school?
JC: I did. I graduated from Carrollton (Ala.) High School. I played football at Alabama for two years. I actually transferred; I left Alabama, and went to Livingston, which is now West Alabama. I graduated from there and got a job and went to work.
CT: What precipitated your move to another school?
JC: Well, football is hard. I played all three sports in high school and really enjoyed all three. Football is year-round.
After we graduated (from college), I ran into a friend of mine a couple years later. There were 105 of us on our freshman team that year and he said, 'Do you know how many were there at the end? Thirteen." That's attrition.
My grades, I was passing, but I wasn't doing the best I could.
CT: Because football took up so much time?
JC: We went on the field every day at 1:20 and we quit at dark.
CT: That was the Bear Bryant regime, right?
JC: Yes, the '60s -- '66, '67. It was a tough experience, but you know, I learned a lot from it.
I was a pretty good high school football player, but when you got there, everybody was pretty good. Kenny Stabler was the quarterback, I mean really.
CT: What was your first job out of college?
JC: I was at Carrollton High School.
CT: So you taught at your alma mater?
JC: Right. I was there for one year.
CT: What got you from Alabama to here?
JC: The economy. In 1978, one of my real good friends, who was actually my JV coach, we lost teaching units. Well, he was one of the last ones hired ... so he came to Georgia. About a year or so later, he called me and said there was a job opening and I needed to apply.
I wasn't real excited about it. We'd had a real good team the last couple years. But my wife and I came over and liked the area. I got offered the job and took it (at Parkview).
CT: How did you meet your wife?
JC: I knew her in high school. We didn't date or anything. I met her after high school. I guess it was spring of my freshman year and dated for a few years. When I graduated, we got married. She's from a town 10 miles from where I'm from. A cousin of hers and I went to high school together.
CT: So how is it working for your son?
JC: He's a good coach. He played a lot of basketball so he really knows the game, and he's got some good assistants. He's got four assistants, including myself, and I'm the oldest one obviously. I just want to help getting the girls really fundamentally sound. It's a little something to do.
I told him, his sister lives in St. Augustine and I might take a little ride for a few days. So I may miss a few days here or there. That hasn't happened yet. But it could.
CT: What do you like to do with the rest of your time?
JC: Well, I'm going to play a little golf this spring. I had hip surgery about a year and a half ago. That's doing well, but I'm not a big-time golfer. I just like getting out there.
Other than that, just enjoy not working for a while.
I don't have a lot of hobbies. I need some (smiling).CT: All those years you spent devoting yourself to coaching and teaching didn't leave you a lot of time for that.
JC: People ask what I'm going to do. I don't know. It's funny though, after working full-time last year -- I had worked part-time for four years -- that was OK. But I don't know if I want to do that much anymore. But if we'd sold the house, I probably would have gone back to work in Birmingham or maybe Tuscaloosa. That's where we want to be eventually.
CT: You still get to 'Bama games?
JC: I think I drove over for three. One was a one-day trip and twice we stayed over with friends.
CT: Did you grow up an Alabama fan?
JC: Oh yeah. My dad and mom both graduated from there.
And there wasn't a lot to do out in the country. It was a small town, it still is, of about 900 people. There's not much going on except sports and small-town life.
CT: Is it near other small towns though?
JC: Yeah, there's two others about 15 miles away and it's about 40 miles from Tuscaloosa. That's where you go for a mall or a movie.
CT: Of course, living here, that drive to Tuscaloosa for a movie, takes about the same time as getting downtown from Gwinnett.
JC: Exactly. But when we moved here, you came up 85 and the only thing at Indian Trail was a truck stop and GAC. That was it. You came to Pleasant Hill and there was a truck stop there. That was it. I remember when they built Gwinnett Place. Heck, I remember when they built Brookwood.
It's changed a bit.
CT: Have you noticed athletes' mentality change since you started coaching?
JC: The parent mentality has. The kids will pretty much do what you ask them to do, I've found.
I know from having kids that played, you want them to succeed, you want them to do well, you want them to have a positive experience. As a coach, you want the same thing for them. So some parents, I don't know, you can't make the call for someone else as to what they're motives are for pushing their kids into stuff. We have kids that play baseball and it's all the time now. Basketball is the same way.
I guess the biggest thing I've seen over the years is you don't have an offseason.
I don't know if too much is good for kids or not. We felt like we had to have our kids in everything when they were coming along. But I know that James, he played basketball in the fall and winter and soccer in the spring.
CT: Having coached in Gwinnett for that long, do you go to other schools and see people you've worked with there?
JC: Oh, yeah. There are several people here that I taught. I won't throw them all out there. (smiling). Let's just say there's a couple principals in the county and a couple coaches -- some are head coaches and some are assistants -- and teachers, too.