As the last few fans filed out of the Glenn Hills High School gymnasium, and as his team waited outside to take the final bus ride of the season, Greenbrier High School basketball coach Danny Black already was at the end of the road.
The Wolfpack had just lost a Thursday night Region 3-AAAA playoff game to Butler High School, and the 74-71 defeat was significant in two respects - Greenbrier's 2001-02 campaign ended one win short of a first-ever state playoff berth, and the defeat closed Black's coaching career.
Still, it wasn't yet time for reflection.
"I don't think about it (being the last game) that much," Black said. "When you have a good group of kids you just sit back and enjoy watching them play."
Now that retirement beckons, Black plans to move on to greener pastures - he likes to play golf, and he'll have time for that pursuit.
But he won't forget his roots.
"I'll come out and watch some games," he said of his future plans. "Watching good basketball is something that I enjoy."
After playing basketball collegiately at Brewton-Parker and Austin Peay, Black began coaching and teaching in 1970 at Montgomery County High School in Mount Vernon, Ga. Before becoming basketball coach at Greenbrier in 1996, he held head coaching positions at Aquinas, Hephzibah and Evans.
Although Black led Aquinas to the state playoffs, recorded a 16-5 record one season at Evans, and has claimed three straight Columbia County Christmas Tournament titles with Greenbrier, the veteran coach may have saved his best for last.
This season the Pack won 11 games, which matched the top single-season victory total in the team's six-year existence. Along the way, Greenbrier beat Statesboro High School, which eventually claimed the Region 3-AAAA championship last week.
"To me, it was an outstanding season. Our kids responded well. I'm proud of them," Black said. "This bunch started believing in themselves and they believed they were going to whip Butler."
That confidence was not shaken by a series of setbacks against Butler - Eric Marshall was sick with the flu, Eric Taylor was limping around with a bad toe, and Tommy McKinney sprawled on the court after being hit in the throat.
Senior guard Richard Burke explained why the Pack refused to quit. "Coach Black instilled those values in us," he said.
While the Bulldogs thwarted Greenbrier's quest for trip to the Class AAAA state playoffs, Black's last locker-room speech put things in perspective.
"I just told them it was one of the best efforts I've ever seen a high school team give," he said. "They're champions to me."
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