Jerry Long "The Story"

Chris Burrows
Posted 6/13/24

Mississippi Association of Coaches

Hall of Fame - Class of 2024 - The Story

IUKA- Malcolm Kuykendall was surprised. Very surprised.

"When I first looked into it, I couldn't believe Jerry …

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Jerry Long "The Story"


Mississippi Association of Coaches

Hall of Fame - Class of 2024 - The Story

IUKA- Malcolm Kuykendall was surprised. Very surprised.

"When I first looked into it, I couldn't believe Jerry Long wasn't already in the Coaches Association Hall of Fame," said Kuykendall, the former Tishomingo County Superintendent of Education and distinguished member of that hall of fame.

Kuykendall thought about it, then understood.

"Jerry Long is a winner. Jerry's teams beat a lot of people in baseball and softball and I can tell you, anybody that wins is not popular with all the coaches. "Not everybody respects coaches that win. Especially when they win at a high level."•

. . Kuykendall had walked in those shoes, or in his case - boots, and spearheaded the movement for Long's Hall of Fame induction on June

Malcolm, the youngest brother of Mississippi high school basketball's winningest set of twins, with brother Milton - set a pinnacle-type standard for a tradition-rich Belmont Lady Cardinals basketball program before moving to education administration.

"I was superintendent for a lot of Jerry's career and his teams have accomplished so much, I wanted to see him get this honor," Kuykendall said. "I wish it hadn't taken a few years, but there was no question Jerry Long deserved it."

Long has been honored throughout his career and was humbled when the school system retired his jersey. A street adjacent to the ball fields bears his name. He has membership in three other distinguished athletic halls of fame.

However, the Mississippi Association of Coaches is especially prestigious because it is selected by peers - generally regarded as the highest standard and the "hardest audience" to convince of career excellence.

One of Long's strengths is his ability to evaluate and candidly speak about others and himself. Long is aware critics are not fond of his work ethic, which includes long hours, long hours and more long hours teaching fundamentals and his devotion to softball and baseball at the exclusion of everything else.

"Nothing could be farther from the truth," said son Blake Long, a former Tishomingo County catcher and current Sports Information Director at Northeast Mississippi Community College. "Dad is a history buff. He is passionate about history, especially American History."

Long has visited historical sites in 48 of the 50 states and has registered endless miles on hi personal vehicle. And there were times when the Long family trips extended into a week or more.

"Mom (Angela) and I would drag ourselves to the car and off we'd go. Mount Rushmore, Maine, Grand Canyon, you name it. No trains. No planes. Just get in that car and ride. I'll tell you, those are some of the best times of the Long family life."

From the son's perspective, Blake does not deny his father's work devotion and perseverance He admires it. But, he offered an insightful counterpoint.

"Let me tell you what Dad is really passionate about. He's passionate about Mom. He respects Mom. He listens to Mom. Even if they disagree, he listens to Mom. Dad is polite and pays attention when others speak to him, but he respects everything Mom thinks and says."

After pausing a moment, Blake added, "Now that I think about it, he listens when my

wife (Leslie) talks to him. Those two women have h s ear. But when people say D d doesn:t ,, think about anything other than softball or school, I Just shake my head. They don t know him.

Richy Harrelson knows him. Harrelson, arguably, is tMe most honor d pl yer to come through the Iuka/Tishomingo County program. Harrelson had a record-settmg high school career, followed by an All-SEC tenure at Ole Miss, won a high school state title as a coach and just completed another postseason run as the head coac_h for the Northeast Tigers.

"Ask his players. They'll tell you. Coach Long wanted to talk to you about what was happening with your family, how were things going at church, what your future plans looked like," Harrelson said. "Grades. He knew your grades. He knew who you were dating. It's never been all about baseball or now, softball. It was about your life and he had your back.."

Harrelson is quick to praise the role of coaches in his life, beginning with his late father Jerry. He can list former major leaguers, championship coaches at college and high school levels as mentors and still uses the lessons taught by Long."""

"Apart from learning the game, here's what I learned about coaching from Coach Long and I-try to do them today. He built confidence. Not arrogance, but confidence. He eliminated pressure on players and let me tell you as a head coach, that's incredibly difficult to do. Coach could motivate without putting too much pressure on you."

Sitting in an oversized office chair, Harrelson leaned forward and said, "It's hard sometimes for coaches to convince players that they're going to win and be successful without having to do something incredible or unbelievable.

"But Coach Long could cut through that. I still hear him say, "If you guys just do what you're supposed to do, we will win this game." And we won a lot of games and he's won a lot of games not doing incredible things, just doing what you're supposed to do."

Doing what you're supposed to do has provided enough success to merit a Hall of Fame spot. But, it was one further characteristic that made the recommendation easy for Kuykendall. A trait he shares and understands.

"What sticks out to me is the loyalty that Jerry Long inspires," Kuykendall said. ''The people that stuck with him, the players that stuck with him, the students that he taught- they are loyal, extremely loyal to Jerry Long. That's impressive."