Blame the kids. One in particular.
Sure, Terry Sellers was going to retire at some point in the fairly near future, maybe in three or four years.
And he’d have been fine. He’s 61 going on 40. Former player Earl Grant on Tuesday said his goal was to look like Sellers after 37 years of coaching.
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So Sellers would then be, say, 65 going on 40 and perhaps start winding down a bit, delegating more as a basketball coach. That wouldn’t have hurt the program a bit. Assistant coach Mark Gainous is starting his 12th year at Georgia College, 11 alongside Sellers. Delegation would have been in extremely good hands.
And Sellers could thus increase how much time he was with his grandchildren: Anna (7), Allie (4) and Carson (16 months). As it is, Carson probably got the ball rolling, getting a little bit more of Sellers’ attention. Actually, that has to be it.
Carson took Sellers’ eye off the ball, and then Luke’s birth, a little more than three weeks ago, hid the ball outright.
“When that other grandbaby came, that may have been (it),” Cathy Sellers said. “That did it. We know they need us, to be babysitters, to be encouragers. We’re ready for that.”
And so Sellers decided that 21 years as basketball head coach at Georgia College and 37 years as a coach and nearly 900 games as a college head coach were enough. Time with his wife -- and helping her take care of her 92-year-old father in Alabama -- and his kids and grandkids finally won. And it was a tough battle.
“I’ve loved every single player,” he said. “Some of them maybe obviously did much better than others, but every player I’ve ever had in that huddle with me, I just have a special feeling for.”
That statement came while sitting in his office Monday. On Tuesday, his wife took it -- and if you watched her, your nose crinkled and you blinked a lot -- a step farther. She noted how her house was loaded with yellow legal pads and index cards, plays galore on one and players on the other.
“You need to know also on an index card has been your names ... where he has prayed for each one of you,” she told the audience. “Not in your ability as a basketball player, but as a young man one day in a home.”
It has been that way for a long, long time, dating back to his first head coaching job, at Hardaway in Columbus only a year or two out of college. Sellers was floored by how much he heard from old Hawks since the announcement.
“I was with them one year,” he said. “It really touched me that guys that long ago and me being there just one year, the bond that we had and how they felt about that year. It was special.”
A number of former players were on hand Tuesday, including former West Laurens standout Ken Kemp, Shaun Keaton, Graham Martin, John John Steensland and Duke Gibbs. Fort Valley State men’s head coach Sammy Jackson was a Sellers recruit, and he attended, as well.
“I’m just overwhelmed with the number of players (here),” Sellers said. “That’s why I’ve been doing this for 37 years.”
Sometimes, the family encouragement had been iffy. Well, from daughter Sara anyway. Every game day, Sellers asked family members on his way out the door if he would still be loved after a loss.
Cathy was good for an “Of course” and son Cooper a “Yeah, I guess.”
Sara? “Heck no, you better win.”
It will be interesting, among other things, in the Sellers’ home as the middle of October approaches. For the first time since he was a kid, Sellers will be without a team.
“The only thing my wife said is we probably need to go somewhere October 15th,” he said. “That’s kind of been my Christmas. That’s kind of my Christmas Eve. I kind of unwrap it that first day we can start practicing.”
Sellers said he wouldn’t mind working with, say, a middle school team where the goal was learning rather than winning, something where he just taught.
“I may start doing the grandchildren thing,” he said, “and that may be all I want to do.”
Nobody is happy that Sellers and his seemingly indestructible suit jackets are gone from the Centennial Center sideline, the school and game losing a man of integrity and impact. But then you hear what people say, and you listen to his wife, with whom he treks to Warner Robins and Atlanta and Alabama and walks with in the Waters Edge area of Milledgeville.
“His wish was always that we would retire together; he didn’t want me to keep working and him retire,” she said. “He’s my best friend, so we want to do everything together.”
Well, if he’s going to leave, it’s hard to beat that as a place to go.
Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or firstname.lastname@example.org