I was terribly saddened to learn about Mr. Jim’s passing. All last week, I was out of school very ill and didn’t even go to work. Unfortunately because of this illness, I was unable to attend either the memorial or the funeral service, which broke my heart. I did want to take a few minutes to acknowledge the life of a man who was very influential, made a big difference and was special to me.
When I was in high school, I would not even attempt to try out for basketball because I was scared to death of Coach Long. He just seemed so big and threatening, which of course I know now was never the case. I can remember him yelling at us, "Don’t walk across my basketball floor with those shoes."
Until this day, I won’t walk on a basketball court if I’m in shoes other than those appropriate for the floor. My PE friends at Richmond Hill Middle School used to laugh at me because I always walked on the sides, rather than across the floor. I’d tell them that if they had Jim Long yelling at them, they wouldn’t, either.
When I returned to Effingham County High School in 1988 as a teacher, Coach Long approached me about assisting him with the girls basketball program. I was again intimidated but this time for different reasons. While I had coached in Savannah, I knew that I didn’t know what he did about the game. However, my love of the game and his knowledge and patience proved to be a fertile ground for growing me as his assistant.
We had a lot of good times during those long months of basketball. When Helen Brant played, it was my job to let him know when she needed to come out of the game to "recharge." When I’d tell him, "Coach, you’d better get Helen," he would pull her right out. I was offered the girls team when he moved to coaching the boys, but I declined. I knew that he would be there if I needed him but felt that I would not be the best person at that time to be the head coach and besides, "what big shoes to fill" (pun intended).
I got to know Coach Jim on a whole new level while coaching with him. He was one of the funniest men I have ever known. He always had some cheesy joke to tell, but the jokes were always funny. He used to tell me that he was going to drive through Meldrim with his headlights and radio on so that we could have some light and entertainment over there. I guess nowadays that would be considered harassment and/or bullying. Cynthia Parker and I used to always laugh at him because he would go over to the lunchroom on "fried pork chop day" and always come back with one or two wrapped up in a napkin in his pants pocket. We used to always tease him and tell him that you were going to be mad with him for ruining his pants with grease.
He really gave me a scare when he had that heart attack. I was so relieved when he recuperated from it. When I learned that he was sick this time, I called him to "catch up." He sounded good and, as usual, had a positive attitude about his illness. I saw him at the honor ceremony for Coach Dale Wilkinson. He apologized to me and I asked why. He said that Bubba had told him I was being inducted into the Effingham County Sports Hall of Fame and that he had intended to go. I told him not to worry about it, that I knew he was proud for me and would have been there if he could.
I’m glad that we had some time that afternoon to talk about our children and grandchildren. I showed him a picture of our grandbaby, Savannah, and he told me what a blessing Jewel (Brenda’s baby) had been to him. He even had a joke ready to share with me, something about the preacher’s son. We sat down inside and he took my hand and held it while we talked. He made me promise to keep up with him, "no matter what," and I told him that I would.
His family, friends, former students, co-workers and all of Effingham County lost a truly special person the day he passed. I will always hold him dear in my heart and remember all of the teasing, the serious basketball moments and everything that he taught me. Perhaps one of the most valuable things he told me was that he always had a smile and a good morning for students because you never knew which of them didn’t have that or ever get one from home. How very true. Since he told me that years ago, I’ve tried to do the same. Even though we didn’t see each other or talk as often as I would have liked, I always knew he was there. I’ll miss that slow drawl and his funny jokes, but mostly, I’ll miss the very special man that he was and the blessing that he was to me. He will be sadly missed.
Janie Dickerson Lynes
ECHS Class of 1974