Coach Paul Brooks retires after 47 years, last 12 at JMA

May 29—The retirement reception honoring the nearly five-decade-long career of coach Paul Brooks was held in a fitting location Thursday.

It took place inside the John Milledge Academy Trojan Center lobby, mere feet away from the spot where over five years prior Brooks had climbed a ladder and cut down one of the gymnasium's basketball nets. That Feb. 8, 2019 snip of the scissors marked the end of what had been a quarter-century drought of region championships for JMA girls basketball.

Brooks calls that night one of the highlights from his last 12 years spent at the local private school. Many more memories were made over his 47 years in the coaching profession, all of which were spent in Central Georgia.

"Forty-seven years, is that what it is," the 70-year-old Brooks said with a laugh Tuesday while taking a break from pressure washing at his Wilkinson County home. "It doesn't seem like it though. Everywhere I was at seemed to have great kids, so that made it easy to go to work."

Winding the clock back to before his working days, Brooks attended Wilkinson County High for three years then transferred to Gordon-Ivey when he became a senior. He graduated from there and later Georgia College before adding the title "coach" to the front of his name.

"I knew it was the closest thing to playing the game," Brooks said. "I wasn't going any further playing, so I said I might as well try to learn a little bit and try to become a coach."

After one year at Wilkinson County High working under David Moore and Charlton Veazey, Brooks transitioned to his alma mater Gordon-Ivey where he and colleague Barney Hester coached a little bit of everything. Coaches aren't just coaches at a small private school, though. Their responsibilities extended to academic classes, PE, and making sure fields and playing surfaces were ready for competition.

"You'd put the chalk lines down the day before a track meet and hoped it wouldn't rain that night," Brooks said. "Those were the good old days."

Gordon-Ivey closed in 1981, forcing Brooks to find work elsewhere. His search sent him to Macon's Tattnall Square Academy where he first worked as an assistant under private school basketball coaching legend Richard Reid, a man who won nine state championships and over 1,000 games on the hardwood. After two years of the head-assistant relationship, the two men split varsity coaching duties. Reid asked Brooks which one he would like to coach. Brooks wanted boys, which was fine by Reid because he wanted to focus on the girls. The two worked together for a total of 27 years.

Brooks bounced over to Stratford Academy for a stint before eventually returning to Tattnall. His years at those two Macon private schools saw him garner a ton of success as both a head and assistant, coaching various sports. He was part of many state championship-winning staffs. He won "a bunch" of region titles. The one thing that eluded him in his career was head coaching a team to a state championship. His basketball teams played in the finals five times, twice in a row at Stratford and three times at Tattnall Square.

"There aren't a whole lot of people that get to win state championships," Brooks said. "Every coach wishes he could win one. It doesn't really bother me that much in the long run. It's tough, but it's something that if it was meant to be it would have happened. It just never did happen."

His last game at Tattnall was the 2012 boys basketball state championship loss. It was then that he came to Milledgeville, first spending a year at GMC Prep. After getting passed over for the varsity head girls basketball job for someone who didn't even stick for a whole year, Brooks, at the urging of Dwight Danuser, found a home at John Milledge where he's been the last 12 years. He brought with him over 600 coaching victories. He was the varsity girls assistant coach under Tasha Gainous for a time before stepping in as head once her son Abe was diagnosed with cancer. When Abe made it through, Brooks handed the job back over to Gainous, but not before the drought-ending region title in 2019.

That and getting to witness the varsity football team's 62-game winning streak and four straight state championships under JT Wall are things Brooks says will stick with him from his time at JMA.

"The man can flat-out coach," Brooks said of Wall in a statement that should mean a lot coming from a man who spent almost half a century in the coaching profession.

Brooks closed out his career coaching middle school boys basketball and football in addition to teaching PE, a duty he enjoyed all the way to his last day.

So what's next for the career coach and lifelong lover of sports? How about more sports as Brooks hits the golf course more, puts his fishing pole in the water, and gets more into pickleball alongside his wife Debbie. When they're not playing sports, the couple will most likely be watching them as they follow their grandkids around.

"I'm going to watch and enjoy it," Brooks said on if he's going to be able to switch his brain off from coach mode. "If they want to ask for advice, I'll give it to them."

And should John Milledge come calling in need of some of the retiree's time, he said he would give that as well.

"I really enjoyed the last 12 years. John Milledge was a great fit for me. If they need me back to try and help here or there, I'll try to be available because it's still in my blood. People don't realize the hours coaches put in, but it's fun. If I had to do it over again, I'd go the same route."

Chalk-lining tracks, waxing basketball courts, and all.