Grady Smith remembers his introduction to John Paul Gaddy.
The then-high school senior had moved from Texas and would be enrolling at Stratford, where Smith was the boys basketball head coach.
Despite already having six seniors, Smith said Gaddy “won a starting job on a pretty good team.” He never really left Stratford after that.
Gaddy, who had success as both a boys and girls basketball head coach, died Saturday night in hospice care after battling cancer for the second time. He was 47.
Gaddy had two stints as the girls basketball head coach, winning four region championships and two GISA championships. He was 137-53 in seven years as the head coach. He also went 84-47 in five seasons as the boys head coach at Stratford, winning one region championship. He was also the defensive coordinator on Stratford’s 2004 GISA championship football team.
“He loved life, loved to have a good time,” Stratford football head coach Mark Farriba said. “Just a sharp-minded and as quick witted a guy you’d ever meet. Nothing got by him.”
Gaddy said in 2010 he stepped away from the girls job twice to avoid burnout and walked away from the boys job in 2010 to focus on his job as the school’s admissions director.
Gaddy went to Texas Christian after high school graduation, but he quickly returned to Macon to attend Mercer. He became a history teacher and an assistant coach to Smith before eventually taking over as the girls head coach.
“He just loved Stratford,” Smith said. “He loved TCU. He loved Georgia Tech because his brother (James) played there. And he loved Stratford. You could see it in his admissions pitch to families who were looking at Stratford.”
Gaddy took a leave from his position as admissions director when he became sick early in the 2013-14 school year.
He first learned he had pancreatic cancer in 2011 when he went to the doctor after feeling itchy over his body. The doctors said they found it early, Gaddy said in 2012, and he had surgery. He had a good prognosis, got married and returned to the coaching bench as an assistant to Stratford girls head coach Ed Smith, who once served as an assistant to Gaddy.
But Gaddy got sick once again and couldn’t remain on as an assistant this past basketball season.
Gaddy was well enough to play golf with Grady Smith about a month ago at a course in Henry County. Smith said Gaddy didn’t look well, but they spent about two hours eating lunch after the round.
“It’s something I’ll always cherish,” Smith said.
Gaddy loved golf and forged a close relationship with Stratford alum and current PGA Tour member Russell Henley. Henley played basketball for Gaddy and they remained very close still after Henley found success as a pro golfer. Gaddy walked 18 holes following Henley at the 2013 Masters, beaming almost the entire trek while watching his former point guard.
Grady Smith said Henley called Gaddy early last week before he left for the British Open.
“Russell couldn’t leave before they talked,” Grady Smith said.
Gaddy’s condition took a bad turn about two weeks ago when he contracted pneumonia along with the cancer.
“He fought so hard and so long,” Grady Smith said. “Just couldn’t beat it.”
Grady Smith said the school will have a memorial at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.