R.I.P, Jerry Dugan

An elderly couple talk in the evening: “Honey, I’m so sorry that I let out my anger at you so often. How do you manage to stay so calm with my foul moods?”

“I always go and clean the toilet when that happens.” “And that helps?”

“Yes, because I’m using your toothbrush.”

If Jerry Dugan didn’t tell that joke at the Huntsville Quarterback Club, well, he should have.

How many times in those years when I helped secure speakers for the club that I had to warn, “Now, we’ve got this guy who gets up and tells jokes before your speech. And some of it can be R-rated.”

It was a sunny Saturday morning, and Mike was beginning his pre-shot routine, visualizing his upcoming shot when a voice came over the clubhouse loudspeaker, “Would the gentleman on the Ladies tee please back up to the men’s tee, please!”

Mike was still deep in his routine, seemingly impervious to the interruption. Again the announcement, “Would the man on the women’s tee kindly back up the men’s tee!”

Mike had had enough. He shouted, “Would the horse’s ass in the clubhouse with the loud speaker kindly shut up and let me play my damn second shot!”

How many hours did Jerry spend online, collecting material like that. Or, more likely, how many friends did he have who couldn’t wait to forward him the latest corny web humor. (Guilty as charged.)

If you didn’t know Jerry Dugan, you got cheated out of a double-dip serving of delight. I think the word “irrepressible” was invented just for him. Funny. Engaging. Loquacious. Magnetic. His death on Tuesday afternoon, just a few weeks before his 82nd birthday, is an enormous loss for our community.

Frankly, I feel a little cheated that I didn’t know Coach Jerry Dugan. He was in his final season when I arrived in Huntsville in February 1998. I’m pretty sure John Pruett or Mike Easterling made the introduction that winter, and probably used the word “legend” somewhere in the conversation. It wouldn’t have been inaccurate.

Let me tell you about him by borrowing this from the website of the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame, on whose board I sat with Dugan.

“The only high school basketball coach in the history of the Alabama High School Athletic Association to ever win consecutive state championships in different classifications (1967 at Hazel Green and 1968 it Lee)…Going into the 1989 season, his teams had won 470 games…his goal is to win 500, a plateau only two other coaches In Alabama have reached…a native of Huntsville. He attended Lincoln Elementary and Middle School. Lettered in football, baseball and baseball at Butler, when he was a teammate of Don Mincher and Glen Nunley…played at David Lipscomb College on a baseball scholarship…Has a Masters degree from Middle Tennessee…born in Huntsville on July 23, 1938.”

How strong was Dugan? That Hall of Fame induction was inducted in 1989 — and he kept coaching, and won 147 more games before he retired. Five-hundred wins? He blew past that like a Ferrari. He finished with 617 wins.

He also finished with hundreds of lives impacted in the kids he coached and the friends he collected.

No question that Condredge Holloway was the best athlete Dugan coached. Condredge was so great in baseball, he was a first-round pick of the Expos; at No. 4 in the draft, he was the highest drafted player in Huntsville history. Holloway instead played football at Tennessee, then in the CFL. But Dugan would always swear basketball was his best sport, and he always said Condredge was one of the best five basketball players ever in Huntsville.

The connection to Holloway prompts one of my favorite Dugan memories. Condredge was nice enough to invite me to the Knoxville premiere of the ESPN 30-for-30 documentary “The Color Orange,” that told Holloway’s life story. A number of Holloway’s friends and coaches were there, Dugan included.

Later that night, the column filed, I headed downstairs to the bar at the Knoxville Marriott, that old pyramid of a hotel alongside the river. I figured one quick beer, then back upstairs in time for Letterman. But there at a table were Dugan, coach Keith Wilson and one of Condredge’s old Lee teammates, Randy Davidson. I joined them, and various other folks popped by the table during the course of the evening. That one quick beer turned into three hours of laughter and story-telling — and a tab that nearly melted my Huntsville Times’ credit card.

My favorite Dugan story though? I get to take a little credit for this idea behind it, and the QB Club board bought into it:

In 2010 or so, the Quarterback Club instituted a Ladies’ Night, in which the guys were encouraged to bring their wives. “Which means,” we told Dugan, “none of your jokes. You can’t get away with them at Ladies’ Night.”

Nonetheless, he came prepared. And he was all set to stand up and deliver at the usual time.

That’s when the lovely, gracious lady seated next to him stood up instead, reaching for some notes with jokes of her own and putting her hand on Jerry’s shoulder.

“I’ve got this,” said Sharon Dugan.

One thought on “R.I.P, Jerry Dugan

  1. Jerry Dugan is definitely a legend and as I said previously, you cannot replace a legend, you just cherish the memories. Excellent article Mark!


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