There is an old expression that home is where the heart is, and for longtime basketball coach Benny Dees, his home and heart always have been in Mount Vernon. The 81-year-old Dees, who was born in Mount Vernon in late December of 1934, has lived in places like Atlanta, New Orleans, Richmond, Virginia, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Laramie, Wyoming, but when he retired, he returned back home to the red clay of south Georgia.
Dees was an outstanding high school athlete at Montgomery County in the mid-1950s, which earned him a scholarship to Brewton-Parker Junior College, where he played both baseball and basketball. His basketball coach for the Barons was Mercer all-time great Glenn Wilkes, who went on to Stetson, where he won 552 games. The next stop for Dees was Laramie, Wyoming, which is a long way from Mount Vernon, and it is interesting how he got there.
Lou McCullough, the one-time commissioner of the Trans America Athletic Conference (now the A-Sun, which is based in Macon), was a football assistant coach for the Cowboys and stopped off to see Wilkes on a recruiting trip and mentioned that the baseball coach at Wyoming, Hall of Famer Bud Daniel, was in the market for a good shortstop. Wilkes immediately thought of Dees. Even though he had scholarship offers to Georgia, Georgia Southern and Middle Tennessee, Dees made the decision to go west and was a starter at Wyoming in both basketball and baseball.
Following his graduation, Dees returned to the Peach State to begin his professional career. He coached high school basketball at Ware County in Waycross and at Manor (Georgia's second smallest school) before getting his first college job at ABAC in Tifton, where he spent three years. From ABAC it was on to Richmond, Virginia, where he became the first head coach for the startup Virginia Commonwealth program. In two seasons, he compiled a 25-21 record with the Rams. He left VCU to become the principal at Worth County, where he had a pair of two-year stints, with a two-year stay sandwiched in between at Western Kentucky as a basketball assistant. From Worth County, Dees was back home in Montgomery County for a year-and-a-half as an assistant principal before joining Dwane Morrison's staff at Georgia Tech for two years. Dees also stayed an additional year at Georgia Tech as the women's basketball head coach before joining Wimp Sanderson's Alabama staff for six seasons.
While VCU was Dee's first Division I head coaching job, his next stop at the top came in 1985 at New Orleans, where he had immediate success. He compiled a 42-16 record in two seasons, guiding the Privateers to a first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, where they defeated BYU in a first-round game in 1986. His alma mater, Wyoming, came calling for his services in 1987, and he spent six seasons with the Cowboys, compiling a 104-77 mark, which also included another trip to the NCAA Tournament. His 1988 team at Wyoming featured one of my all-time great sports names: Fennis Dembo. Dees returned south in 1993, taking over at Western Carolina, where he had to rebuild the program and went 26-30 in two seasons.
His stay in Cullowhee at Western Carolina was his final college job, but it was not his final coaching gig. He returned to Georgia to become the principal at Montgomery County, where he spent three years and then coached at Toombs County in Vidalia and Jeff Davis in Hazelhurst before officially retiring in 2010.
Following his coaching days, he bought a 406-acre farm and got in the cattle business but since has sold all his cattle and is now officially retired ... in Mount Vernon.
Contact Bobby Pope at firstname.lastname@example.org