Coaching legend recalls decades of mentoring

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Coach Bubba Ball has influenced thousands of young athletes who have played on his basketball, football, and baseball teams. Some of them along with family, friends, and fellow coaches got together over the weekend to wish Coach Ball happy 95th birthday.

Phil Scoggins caught up with Coach Ball at his home while he was watching some March Madness basketball. His personal bracket was close by, though spoiled by Duke’s early exit. Bubba and his wife Debbie both coached at Shaw High School when it opened in 1978. But Bubba’s first coaching job in Columbus was 27 years earlier when he was approached by the Athletic Director at Baker High School about coaching basketball.

“He said, ‘How would you like to coach that bunch of boys that play in this league?’ I said I’d like it. He said, ‘You wouldn’t win a game.’ I says, I sure would like to try. He says you got the job. Made it to the state tournament…was 14-5,” says Bubba Ball.

That was the start of a 14-year stint with the Lions that included two state basketball championships. He also spent two years coaching at Hardaway and then ten at Shaw. Many of his former players and coaches as well as family and friends turned out over the weekend for a surprise birthday party. Among those attending was Foster Watkins who went on to play football at Georgia Tech. Watkins played on Coach Ball’s 1954 state championship basketball team at Baker.

“We had never had the concept that we could play with Columbus High School and Jordan and Central. But he let us know that we could,” says Foster Watkins.

“All the kids thought I was cocky, but that’s what they needed. They needed some confidence,” says Bubba Ball.

Dusty Perdue has known Bubba Ball as both coach and dad for 40 years.

“The shuffle offense is what he’s known for back in the day when he was at Baker. Had some great players. And I said, Coach, I need something that I can run shuffle cut off of, and give me two or three options off of that. And so I broke out the pad and pencil and here we go,” says Dusty Perdue.

But Bubba has offered Dusty much more than basketball strategy over the years.

“He’s my mentor, he’s my friend, he’s my best friend, but he’s also my dad. And I look at him that way. I’ve been very blessed to have him in my life and to win these championships while he’s still here,” says Dusty Perdue

Coach ball told me multiple times how blessed he was to have talented players to coach.

“You don’t find good coaches¬†without good players…You know that,” says Bubba Ball.

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