A legendary pair

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 13, 2002

NATCHEZ &045; Anybody want to take a stab at how Natchez coaching legend Henry &uot;Doc&uot; Woods conducted his first track meet as a coach in Natchez?

Since there was just earth at Sadie V. Thompson High School in 1966, Woods dialed up the fire department and asked if they had any extra hoses lying around.

The fire department obliged, and Sadie V. defeated Meadville High that day running around 400 meters of cotton that outlined the football field.

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The track surfaces got better, and so did Woods’ teams.

In 40 years of coaching, Woods’ boys’ and girls’ squads won 641 meets.

That’s an 82 percent winning percentage.

Woods will join Cathedral athletic director Roy Garcia and three others in induction ceremonies into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame come July 11.

&uot;To be selected as one of the top coaches in Mississippi is a reward for all the work I put in,&uot; said Woods, who had 38 championship years in Natchez. &uot;I was always thankful to work in a school district that was as supportive and cooperative as here.&uot;

Woods’ glowing resume looks like a Super Wal-Mart receipt after three hours of shopping.

As an athlete he received a full ride to Mississippi Valley State on a track scholarship.

He was named district coach of the year 13 straight years at Sadie V. and then North Natchez High School.

He’s coached and coddled 115 high school All-Americans and three national champions.

The city thought he had done enough by June 12, 1985 to adorn him with his own day.

And then came the call he placed to good friend Garcia’s house earlier this week.

Garcia’s wife, Sara, picked up and let the cat out of the bag.

&uot;Was I not supposed to tell him,&uot; Sara Garcia said as she handed the phone to her husband.

Roy Garcia, who sits on the MAC’s selection committee, said it was a heart-warming feeling to let his buddy in on the secret.

Any why not since Garcia, a past president of the MAC, is set to join Woods as a member of the 2003 class as well.

After spending three years at St. Joseph’s in Greenville, Garcia has devoted his mind, body and soul to Cathedral School for the past 35 years.

He’s coached the gamut &045; football, basketball, golf, softball and track &045; but he is best known for the championship tennis he directed for the Green Wave in the 1970s.

&uot;To be chosen by your peers is the greatest achievement anybody can receive,&uot; Garcia said. &uot;They’ve got the facts in front of them, so there is very little politicking.&uot;

Both inductees model what the term old school is all about, preaching positive attitudes and good examples to their student-athletes.

So well-respected at Cathedral is Garcia that the school hands out an annual award to a senior who best exemplifies the character, qualities and contributions that Garcia exhibits. The school also named the gym in his honor this year.

&uot;Coaches don’t realize how important they are,&uot; Garcia said. &uot;The biggest compliment I get is when a student calls me, ‘daddy.’

&uot;Younger coaches need to realize the impact they have on kids and teach them the basic values of life.&uot;

Together Woods and Garcia join three other Natchez coaches who have been previously inducted into the Hall of Fame, the latest being Natchez High girls’ basketball coach Mary Irving.

In 1990 North Natchez-Adams and South Natchez-Adams High merged to form the Natchez High we have today.

Woods took over the track program for the Bulldogs and in his first year was named the MAC Coach of the Year for boys’ track.

In all, Woods has come galaxies from Sadie V. Nineteen state championships to his credit and a bowlful of incredible amateur athletes he’s chaperoned along the way.

&uot;I needed to be nosey and concerned about my kids,&uot; Woods said. &uot;If they weren’t at school, I didn’t ask the school office, I called their mom. I had to make house calls.&uot;