By Doug Gorman
George Eanes hasn't coached a high school basketball game in more than 30 years.
Still, the legendary retired Stockbridge coach, who hung up his whistle in 1972, hasn't lost his passion for the game or his desire to give pointers to a new generation of high school players when asked.
"I work with different players from time to time," he said. "It keeps me young."
On Monday afternoon, Sarah Pruitt traveled all the way from Haralson County in west Georgia to work with Eanes at the Henry County High School gym.
Pruitt will be a rising freshman at Haralson County High School in Tallapoosa and hopes to acquire new skills before beginning her high school career.
"He has helped me work on my five-step drive, cross-over dribble, reverse dribble and my jump shot," she said.
Recently, Eanes was named the winner of the Steve Schmidt Award, given by the Atlanta Tip Off Club to a person who has contributed to the growth of basketball in Georgia.
"He is so deserving of this award," said former Henry County basketball coach Chuck Miller, who still serves as the Warhawks' athletic director. "He has influenced the lives of so many people."
Eanes made coaching stops at Turner County, Brooks County and Stockbridge before giving up coaching to work fulltime as a guidance councilor until retiring from the education business in 1986. Eanes still lives in Henry County.
The former coach had success in both boys and girls basketball, winning 523 games with just 201 losses. That translates into a 72-percent winning percentage, including two state titles at Brooks County. His teams also finished as state runner up twice.
His teams played in the state tournament 12 times. He also won 11 region titles and coached 18 all-state tournaments.
With a collection of accolades, Eanes has plenty of fond memories, and despite his two state titles, what he did as coach during his first year at Stockbridge might have been his most impressive coaching job.
The Lady Tigers went 3-6 before Christmas, but rallied to win 16 straight. The next 3-and-a-half years his teams only lost one regular season game.
Eanes watched the game of basketball evolve during his long coaching career.
When he first started coaching the girls' game, each team played with six players, with three on the defensive side of the court and three on the offensive side of the court.
Players weren't allowed to cross half court.
Eventually, each team was allowed to play with a rover, who could cross half court. The girls' game finally switched over to the way it's played today.
The former coach didn't have to adjust his coaching style as the girls' game changed.
"I had coached boys basketball so I was used to the more traditional game," he said.
Eanes isn't surprised by the athleticism displayed by the girls' game.
Still he has some advice for today's coaches.
"Keep it simple," he said. "The object of the game hasn't changed."
After also coaching boys basketball, Eanes isn't surprised some high school players are capable of going to the NBA straight out of high school.
"I think the boys game has advanced much faster than the girls," he said.
Even though Georgia is known for its level of high school football, Eanes thinks some of the best basketball players in the country come from the Peachtree State.
"I'll say this, if we could keep players in Georgia, Tech and Georgia would play for the national title every year," he said. "There are that many good ball players. "It's just like (Dwight) Howard and (Randolph) Morris, and the two boys out from Central Gwinnett, these guys are outstanding ball players. There are some outstanding girls in the state of Georgia. If we could keep them all in the state of Georgia, we would play for the national title, but so many of them go out of state."
Eanes was grateful to be recognized as the winner of the Steve Schmidt Award.
"When I accepted the award I knew I wanted to thank three people, Chuck (Miller) and all those who were responsible for nominating me, the parents and players, and my wife Mary," he said.
Mary kept the scorebook for most of the coach's games, and later this year the couple will celebrate 50 years of marriage.