Tucker leaves behind a legacy
By Bart Moss
For the FCT
Former Russellville High School basketball coaching great, Jack Tucker, passed away last week at the age of 88.
Tucker coached the Russellville Golden Tigers for 31 years from 1963-1988. He compiled a 612-258 record and guided the Golden Tigers to a state championship in 1982.
From 1968, the year the Alabama Interscholastic Athletic Association merged with the Alabama High School Athletic Association, until the 1974-75 season, the Golden Tigers suffered no more than eight losses in a single season. They lost four games in the 1968-69 season as well as the 1971-72 season. In the 1973-74 season the Golden Tigers posted an impressive 30-2 record.
Below are some personal tributes to Coach Tucker from some of the people who knew him best:
“Coach Tucker was an excellent coach. He was gentleman and a coach. It would be hard to find a better person than Coach Tucker. I wish I could have played for him more than one season. I liked the way he coached. He wasn’t so much concerned with regular season games. He just let you play. Now, when it came tournament time at the end of the season, Coach Tucker expected you to step up your game and play harder.
“I think Coach Tucker made me a better person. He would tell you the truth no matter how hard it may be to hear. You don’t find many people who will do that. Whether it was at school or away from school, Coach Tucker was a father-figure to me and many other young men.”
“Every so often someone comes along that has so much of an impact on so many people. Coach Tucker was one of the biggest influences. During my life, I grew up watching his great runs in the 70s and dreamed of one day playing for him and warming up to that “Sweet Georgia Brown” song that was a trade mark of his. When I got to RHS I realized he was a man of few words, but he could say so much without saying a word. He gave his teams plenty of slack but you knew exactly where the end of the rope was. He treated everyone the same. It didn’t matter to him if you were from Tharptown, Mt. Star, Waco, Rockwood or Russellville; he respected you and saw the good in everyone.
“One thing that impressed me later in life was how much respect the opposing coaches had for him. I think the secret to his success in addition to having great talent was his teams respected him so much. Players just played harder and didn’t want to disappoint him. He was a man’s man. Being around him made you tougher and grow up faster, and that had positive effects on the court as well as life itself.
“In my senior season of ‘82, I don’t think Coach Tucker really knew what to expect from our team. The year before we had lost in the region finals to Colbert County, who then went on to win state. We graduated some great talent from that team and I think he probably went into our season open minded. Midway through the ‘82 season, he had to make a hard decision that defines him to this day. He had to let a player go that at the time was our number one rebounder and number two scorer. I know it had to be difficult for Coach but he used that to bring us even closer and play even harder in being able to win him his state championship.
“I’ll never forget how happy he was with that championship. It was like after so many runs with great teams and talent, the monkey was off his back. Until his death, when us former players, of all years, ran in to each other, the question almost always came up “have you seen or talked to Coach Tucker”? This is just another example of the mutual love we had for that man. In college football there will always be Shug and Bear and for basketball in Northwest Alabama and RHS, there will always be Coach Tucker.”
“Coach Tucker was a great man who set an example for all to follow. We all will remember him as Coach, a man who cared deeply about each of his players, taught us sportsmanship, and remained humbled through all his success. He instilled in each of those he coached that competition was not about beating your opponent, it was about doing your best, striving to reach your potential, and the relentless pursuit of a competitive edge in everything you do.
Coach Tucker told me that the true measure of a man was not about what he gained, but what he gave. What we all loved about him and once enjoyed, we will never lose. His life will always be a part of us.”
“I didn’t start playing basketball until my senior season. Coach Tucker was my introduction to basketball. He had a guy come in and work with just me on the opposite end of the court away from the other players to get me caught up and figure out where I would fit into the team. He invested a lot of time with me and I am forever appreciative of it.
“He knew how to get what he needed out of his players. He was a great motivator and a good man. When he said something, you knew he meant it. He vowed to put us together as a team. He taught me how to persevere and overcome obstacles. He taught his players how to keep going when you didn’t think you could.
“We were big underdogs in the state tournament in Tuscaloosa [in 1982]. It was different then – you played every day. By the end of the tournament, in the finals, it seemed like everyone was pulling for us to win because we were such big underdogs and because of the way we played. That all came from Coach Tucker.”
“Coach Tucker was a great man. He had such a strong impact on my life during my high school years. He was a wonderful coach to play for. You earned your playing time at practice. He did not play favorites. You had to earn it.
“Winning the state championship in 1982 has to be my best memory. The look on his face and the smile he had is something I will never forget. We were so proud to be able to win that for him. Another time was my senior year against Muscle Shoals. I had the best game of my life (4/4 field goals, 10/10 free throws and 12 rebounds). He walked into the locker room after the game and smiled that smile and said, “It’s about time.” That’s the way he was, he expected your best every night.
“The impact he had on my life is still showing today as I prepare for my new role as an assistant principal and junior high girls basketball coach at Red Bay High School. He was one of the reasons I wanted to be a teacher and a coach. He was a man of few words, but the ones he spoke stayed with you. There will never be another coach like him to me. He was one of a kind.”
“Coach Tucker always treated everyone fair. He didn’t have favorites. I remember when I was in school at Mountain Star he would invite me to practice with the team at Russellville. He didn’t have to do that and that made a real impression on me. He cared about us. He was also a very honest man. You always knew where you stood with Coach Tucker. He didn’t care who you were – you earned your playing time in practice.”
Dr. Wayne Ray
“I worked with Jack for 25 years. He was a unique person. He was a good and decent man. He was reserved. He had the ability to not over-coach a team and develop team chemistry. There were times he would run five in during one quarter and five another quarter until he could find his starting five.
“We went to the state tournament nine times. I would go with him and take care of paperwork, finances and hotels, and let him just coach. We had a lot of fun in those days. There is a lot of pressure coaching in a state tournament, and you learn a lot about a person in how they handle that pressure. You knew where he stood. The kids knew where he stood. If you were going to play, you had to meet his expectations.
“One thing that really impacted me about Coach Tucker was that he had his standards, and he was the same Coach Tucker every day. He was consistent and fair. He would treat all of his players the same. There were no favorites. He was the same way out of coaching. He was a very good man and will be missed, but he made an impact on so many people.”