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HUCKABY: Retelling the tales of one of Georgia's best coaches

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Dorsey Hill invited me to a basketball game last week. Yes, that Dorsey Hill -- world's greatest Bulldog fan. He's a real person, but he no longer believes that if you are good you go to Vince Dooley's house when you die. Now he thinks you get to go to the BCS National Championship game -- and sit beside A.J. McCarron's girlfriend.

Dorsey still can't wait.

I had a great time at the game. We sat so close to the bench that I got sprayed with sweat every time there was a timeout called. Well, maybe we weren't that close, but we had good seats. In fact, the only disappointment in the outing was the final score. UGA lost to those other Bulldogs -- the ones from Starkville. Winning is always more fun than losing, but it was still a great day.

The best part of the day -- other than the inestimable pleasure of Mr. Hill's company, of course -- was getting to hear former Georgia coach Hugh Durham speak before the game. Coach Durham was there because his 1983 team -- the only Bulldog hoops squad to ever make it to the Final Four -- was being honored at halftime. He agreed to make a few remarks to an aggregation of fans and well-wishers before the game and we got to hear him.

Hugh Durham is and always has been one of the funniest men I have ever heard speak in public. And he looks as good, at 75, as he did when he was fired as the Georgia coach 18 years ago, after leading the Bulldogs to a 18-10 record and a trip to the NIT. His 298 wins are still the most recorded by a men's basketball coach at the University of Georgia.

But this day was not a day for bitterness. This was a day for embracing the past and reuniting with old friends. Several members of the 1983 team which made it to Albuquerque as East Region Champions were on hand and Hugh had funny stories to tell about each of them.

I just missed Hugh at UGA. Ken Rosemond was the head coach when I matriculated to Athens in 1970. I was on scholarship as a manager. The SEC hasn't changed that much in 40 years. We finished 6-20 and lost to Rollins College. A couple of years later The Rose was let go and replaced by Babe McCarthy, who passed away before holding a single practice session. The late John Guthrie -- one of the finest men I have ever known and a holdover on McCarthy's staff from the Rosemond era -- inherited the head job. Durham replaced Coach John in 1978, about three years after I had graduated.

I will never forget the first time I heard Coach Durham speak. It was at an Atlanta Tip-off Club event at Georgia Tech, of all places. Tech coach Bobby Cremins was also on the agenda. He went first -- something you should never do when sharing a rostrum with Hugh Durham. Cremins accepted questions after his comments and someone asked him about the first thing he looked for in a recruit. With a perfectly straight face he said "Academics." Some things never change.

When it was Hugh's turn to talk he spent what seemed like three minutes walking around Bobby, looking at his nose from every angle. Finally he spoke, in that somewhat squeaky voice and said, "Bobby! How can you tell people such a lie? You don't go to the library when you visit a high school and look for the kid reading the thickest book. You don't go to the Latin Club or the National Honors Society meeting. You are just like the rest of us. You go to the gym looking for the big lunk that can average 30 a game and own the boards and then try your best to get him in school and keep him eligible."

Cremins' face was as red as a Georgia jersey.

He also told a wonderful story about Vince Dooley that night. It was 1981 and Buck Belue had recently graduated. Hugh: "Back in Athens Coach Dooley has been evaluating the quarterbacks. He spends a lot of time talking about this guy's arm and that guy's ability to read the defense and all that junk. I can tell you exactly who will be the quarterback next year. It will be the guy who does the best job of getting real low under center -- (here Hugh does his best Johnny Unitas imitation) -- reading the defense, taking the snap and giving the ball to Herschel. That's who is going to be the quarterback at Georgia."

The old coach was in rare form last Saturday, too, picking on Florida fans, his former players, Executive Director of the Georgia Bulldog Club Mark Slonaker and, of course, himself.

It was a grand day, full of memories.

And I hope current coach Mark Fox gets things turned around and one day Dorsey Hill and I can listen to him wax nostalgic about the first time he took the Bulldogs to the Final Four. He'd better hurry though. Me and Dorsey are getting some age on us.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.