James D. Redd was much more than a basketball coach.
Being a basketball coach is what garnered Redd the most publicity to those outside of Central High School during his tenure there, but for those of us lucky enough to have known him as a person, as a teacher and as a friend, to describe him as a basketball coach almost seems an insult.
Don’t get me wrong, Coach Redd was a fantastic basketball coach; a self-made basketball coach who used education — books, observations, trial and error — to develop his skills as a coach; he didn’t rely on his personal experiences because he didn’t play the game. He studied it and absorbed it. He explained its workings in a manner his players could understand and then translate that knowledge on the court.
It was the same in his classrooms. I didn’t have Coach Redd as a teacher — heck, he was teaching chemistry and physics and such and those were not subjects that fit well in my skill set, as they say — but all of my classmates who had him as an instructor gushed at how well he ran his classrooms, how interesting he made the subject and how patient he was with his students.
The in turn translated that to coaching basketball. He knew his subject, knew how to present it in a manner that, even with its most difficult and intricate aspects, could be understood by his players, his students. His patience was also valuable in this area as well as anyone who has spent more than five minutes at a basketball practice can attest.
Last week, Coach Redd— and I refer to him in that manner, in a column in which I make the point he was so much more than a coach, out of respect for the man and the title, and in deference to how most who knew him referred to him — passed away at the age of 75.
He suffered a stroke on Jan. 28 and had a setback during his recovery. He leaves a great legacy on several stages, testament to his success as a coach and teacher, but more importantly, as a person. It is that area where James B. Redd was a true Hall of Famer. He always had a quick smile, unless you made a mistake on the court, and he was a friend to everyone.
He demanded the best from his players and students, and he demanded the same of himself. And he always gave that, in all things.
There was, and remains today even in death, a great respect for Coach Redd, almost a reverence from those who knew him. That exists today, several years after having been a student at the school in which he taught and later coached (after I graduated), because of who he was as a person, how he carried himself, how he treated others; it exists because he did everything within his power, whether in the classroom, the gym or listening to someone’s problems, to make things better.
We who knew him are all much better for that friendship, that relationship with him. That respect — and the sense of loss with his passing — only multiplies for those who played basketball for him or had him as a teacher or, the luckier ones, who knew him as a friend.
He was quiet, but intense; patient yet eager; brilliant, yet down to earth.
Coach Redd should always be remembered for his success and skill as a basketball coach. He earned a place in the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in leading Central basketball through some of its most successful seasons and with some of its greatest stars (Ken Johnson, Eddie Adams, Mike Jones). In 14 seasons he won 325 games, including a 33-1 record in 1980-81 when the team reached the state semifinals before suffering its only loss of the year.
But to those of us who knew him, who enjoyed our time with him either as a coach, teacher, friend or any combination of the three, know the loss goes much deeper and reaches many more areas than basketball or coaching.
He was quite simply a good and decent man, and those losses hurt the most.
Rest in Peace, James B. Redd.