Oak Mtn. basketball celebrates 10 years, honors North

Published 6:38 pm Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Players from the past nine years of Oak Mountain High School basketball returned to the school gym Tuesday night for a special homecoming 10th year celebration of the program.

“They set a standard of excellence in high school basketball that is hard pressed to be met in this area,” said Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller, who was the Oak Mountain principal from 1999-2006.

During the halftime presentation, the school and Oak Mountain fan base received it’s first chance to publicly thank their first basketball coach, Jerry North, for his tenure. North retired at the end of the 2006-07 school year after an eight-year stint as head coach and 25 years in the Alabama system.

Within a few weeks of his retirement, he moved to Australia with his new bride, Rebecca, who had been offered a job in Melbourne. They followed her back to the U.S. in September, residing now in Memphis, Tenn. Tuesday was his second stop at the school since his return. Athletic director Jerry Hood presented him with a plaque at halftime.

“Over the years, this man started basketball. We want to take this time tonight to tell you that we appreciate it,” said Hood, as former players gathered around him. “You were more than just a coach to us, you’re our friend. You were a mentor, and to a lot of these guys right here, you were another dad to them.”

North said it was great to be able to visit with the coaches, players and parents that gathered, as well as Thompson head coach Jeff Nichols, who was Oak Mountain’s opponent for the night.

“It brings back memories,” North said after the presentation. “When we started, we didn’t really know what to expect … That first group of players just started a chain reaction.”

North compiled a 180-62 record in eight years at Oak Mountain, including an appearance in the Elite Eight, two trips to the Sweet Sixteen and six area championship games, winning the area title three times.

“It’s hard to believe (it’s been 10 years),” North said. “It seems just like yesterday that we were driving over here form Clay-Chalkville High School. We started working athletics over here in the spring our last year at Clay-Chalkville. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. It just shows I’m getting old.”

North is now helping his wife settle into their new house in Memphis, specifically the room that she has set aside for him to hang his 29 years of coaching memorabilia and the plaque presented Tuesday.