NOTE: This is the third installment in a series introducing the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Look for football coach Doug Goodwin’s profile Thursday. Tickets for the 25th AHSAA HOF Banquet set for March 23 at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center are still available to the public by calling 334-263-6994 by March 16. Tickets will not be sold at the door and mail order ticket deadline has passed.
By BILL PLOTT
A native of Anniston, Harold Jackson “Jack” Doss Jr., graduated from Oxford High School in 1965. After serving in the U.S. Air Force he played basketball at Gadsden State Community College, then earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Jacksonville State University.
His teaching and coaching career began at Hayes High School. It was at Hayes that he launched a career that would be nothing short of spectacular – a state-record eight AHSAA state basketball championships with this year’s Class 5A state title won by his current team J.O. Johnson. Doss, a member of the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015 to be inducted March 23, also is one of only two coaches to win boys’ state titles at three different schools. He also won state championships at Hayes of Birmingham and Butler of Huntsville and had back-to-back titles three different times. His teams at Hayes, S. R. Butler and J. O. Johnson combined to compile a 749-320 record under his tutelage.
In his only two years at Hayes, he won his first two championships. They were consecutive Class 4A titles in 1980-81 and 1981-82. Those two teams had a combined record of 58-9. Doss became the only coach in state history to win championships in his first two years of coaching.
From Hayes he went to Florida for two years, and then returned to his home state to accept the head basketball coach position at S.R. Butler in Huntsville. Although his tenure at Butler did not enjoy as spectacular a start as it did at Hayes, he was quickly a basketball presence in North Alabama. Within a few years he had a team in the state tournament, then one in the semifinals finishing the 1990-91 season with a 31-4 record.
The 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons saw back-to-back Class 5A state championships. There was a repeat performance in 2007-08 and 2008-09. His fifth championship at Butler and seventh overall came in 2010-11. In 2013-14 he moved to J. O. Johnson High School. The Jaguars finished 32-4 in 2015 with a 59-52 win over Ramsay in the state finals at the BJCC.
His seven championship teams included 16 all-tournament selections, six of them the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Other superlatives in his career include:
-- Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame, 2007.
-- The Birmingham News Coach of the Year seven times.
-- North Alabama team coach in the state all-star game, winning both years.
-- Alabama All-Stars coach against the Mississippi All Stars, winning both games.
--Produced more than 30 Division I scholarship players. Included the all-star games, he has coached four NBA players – Charles Barkley, Buck Johnson, Eric Bledsoe and Ennis Whatley.
Huntsville City School Board member Topper Birney shared an unusual anecdote about Coach Doss’s coaching ability, unusual in that it came from a practice session, not a game: I interrupted a Butler basketball practice to ask Coach Doss’s permission to invite two of his players to attend the Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast that is celebrated every year in Huntsville. He immediately gave his approval and then we settled into a fairly lengthy talk. His back was to the court but I was to witness the players going through their practice routine flawlessly. I remarked to Jack that I think they would have done the routine the same way had he not been there. He assured me that was true.”
Butler’s basketball character development strategies were showcased on CBS sports. Speaking to that character Butler Principal Chad LaQua wrote: “Jack displays extraordinary leadership…as a teacher, coach and mentor to our student-athletes. Jack displays positive leadership on the court, but his character can be easily defined by how students respect his teaching in the classroom of life. Jack teaches students lifelong lessons. He leads by example, and often refers to himself as the ‘sweeper’ or someone who is there to support everyone else. Jack’s players are highly recruited and continue to play college basketball at the Division I level.
“Most importantly, Jack gives the students in our Butler community hope. He was instrumental in the team effort to reopen Butler High School. During his tenure with us at Butler High School, Jack has worked with students in a diverse range of responsibilities that include tutoring, teaching, and mentoring. He also brought new ideas that helped raise the culture achievement at Butler High School. Jack is truly is a statesman for AHSAA basketball…He is always looking to improve his own coaching style and the technique of the students.
“Mr. Doss displays an incredible work ethic and models professionalism for our students. Jack also displays a knack for communicating and working with at-risk student-athletes in a humble manner. He shows understanding and provides constructive ideas that encourage achievement at Butler. Jack continues to assure that academics come first.”
J. O. Johnson principal Eric T. Jones wrote that Doss’s commitment to education far surpasses basic duty. “I have watched Coach Doss should be mold young men into gentlemen of character and integrity. He is an excellent teacher of not only the game of basketball but the game of life as well. He and his staff work tirelessly with our young men to ensure that they are spiritually, emotionally and physically ready for any challenges they may face on or off the court. His wealth of experience and success in coaching allow for many schools to take time to visit our campus on a regular basis. This exposure provides all of our athletes the opportunity to be seen by numerous colleges and universities, an aspect that was otherwise unavailable or lacking in previous years at J.O. Johnson High School. Although Coach Doss has retired from teaching, he remains highly visible in the school and stands, more than willing to give of his time for the benefit of JOJ.”