Legend feature: Hall of Fame coach Gentry returns to chase record

The town of Murphy, N.C., breathed a figurative sigh of relief when veteran coach David Gentry announced he’d be returning to coach the Bulldogs again in the fall.

And why wouldn’t folks in this small mountain hamlet in western North Carolina be excited that Gentry was going to lead the local team for the 36th year?

The Hall of Fame coach has won eight state championships, six since 2010, and over 400 games in 48 years of coaching.

His record of 406-185-3 is second best in North Carolina and puts him seven wins away from breaking Jack Holley’s total of 412.

In June he’ll be inducted to the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame in Bismarck, North Dakota.

“(The induction) means a lot to me. Heck fire. You can’t get any better than that,” Gentry said.

Since 2010, Gentry says, he’s been considering retirement but has coached the last decade on a year-by-year basis. He turns 73 in May.

At the team’s banquet in February, he told his players, their parents and boosters that he wasn’t ready to leave the sidelines just yet.

“I go back and take some time off and think about if I’m going to be ready for that six-month grind from the end of July to the middle of December – six days a week from morning until night. I decided I wanted to do it again,” Gentry said. “And of course the record is close. It would be nice (to break it) but I never really thought about it until this past year.”

The record Gentry is trying to break is for the all-time number of coaching victories in North Carolina.

He earned his 400th career win on Oct. 19 with a 49-7 victory over Swain County and sometime during the 2019 season he could set the mark.

“(400) is a pretty big number. It was just another win really,” Gentry said, of becoming just the third coach in North Carolina to win that many games. “It’s just a number but it was good, pretty good. We’ve just been real fortunate to be in a good place.”

Gentry says there are three things a coach needs to be successful building a competitive football program like Murphy –  great players, dedicated coaches and community support.

“You’ve got to have several things going for you,” he said. “When you’ve got kids coming up through the ranks it’s important to them (to play football). You’ve got to have good coaches. When we go to practice we know what we are doing. You put that all together and we can build on that. I’ve just been blessed by having all those things that are positive to having a winning program. It’s been a real good thing and a real good ride.”

The David Gentry Profile

Team: Murphy, N.C., High School

Years as Head Coach: 48

State Championships: 8

Coaching record: 406-185-3

2018 record – 13-1, Class 1A state champions

Profession: Chatham, Va., High School (1971-73); Edneyville, N.C., High School (1977-83)

Education: Edneyville, N.C., High School; Elon University

Family: Wife, Kelly, a retired guidance counselor; five children

Accomplishments: National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, Western North Carolina Hall of Fame, 2013 National Federation of State High School Associations National Coach of the Year