Unforeseen move Down Under: North leaves Eagles hoops for Australia

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 6, 2007

When Jerry North began his coaching career 29 seasons ago, he never thought he&8217;d one day be looking for a job teaching hoops in the Outback.

North retired from Oak Mountain High School last week after leading the Eagles&8217; varsity boys&8217; basketball program to 178 wins since the school opened eight years ago.

The announcement left some wondering if the move was health related after he was treated for colon cancer in 2004.

&8220;My health has been doing well right now. The reason for this is I recently got married and my wife has a job opportunity, that we couldn&8217;t pass up,&8221; North said. &8220;I&8217;m moving to Australia.&8221;

North married Rebecca Morgan in early May, and will relocate to Melbourne, Australia in July.

&8220;I never would have imagined,&8221; said North, who&8217;s previous travels outside of the U.S. included Mexico, Canada and a cruise to the Bahamas. &8220;I think it&8217;s going to be great. It&8217;s going to be a real good experience.&8221;

North began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Newnan (Ga.) High School in 1977, only to take over the program one year later at the age of 24. In his first season at the helm, North guided his team to a 25-2 season and a trip to the state tournament. After three seasons in Georgia, North made two others stops before landing in the Birmingham Metro Area in 1985 at Huffman High School.

From Huffman it was on to Clay-Chalkville in 1996, where he took up the challenging task of building from scratch for the first time. Two year&8217;s later he was doing the same at Oak Mountain.

It&8217;s a lot of work, I don&8217;t know if I&8217;d want to do it again,&8221; North said. &8220;It&8217;s a lot of fun in some ways too and it&8217;s very rewarding when they&8217;re successful.&8221;

The reward came every season at Oak Mountain, collecting a winning season each year and 20 or more wins every year but this year, as the Eagles finished with 17. He and the Eagles&8217; collected their most wins ever in a season last spring with a 29-2 record and Northeast Regional appearance.

&8220;This has been a great place to work, because of the relationships with the other coaches and the relationships with the players,&8221; North said.

Oak Mountain athletic director Jerry Hood, who was a senior at Huffman when North took over that program, thinks highly of North.

&8220;He&8217;s a great coach and a great friend. (What he has done here) is probably the best start of any basketball program in Alabama history,&8221; Hood said.

North hopes he can use connections to find a coaching job in Australia, but whether he does or not, he&8217;s looking forward to retirement in the Outback.

&8220;I&8217;m an avid hunter and fisherman, so I plan on doing that as much as I can. There&8217;s plenty of outdoor recreation there,&8221; he said