By GARY STALLARD/AC Athletics
There’s plenty of truth to the old adage regarding a good woman behind every good man, but when it comes to Dorothy Davis, there’s a caveat:
“Behind” refers solely to her seating arrangement.
Throughout Guy Davis’ 31-year coaching career at Angelina College – and several more prior to then as a high school coach – his wife Dorothy kept her seat right behind the bench where he sat or paced while directing his teams. She was there to provide support and, when necessary, join her husband in advising officiating crews in the errors of their ways.
Those games were the only time she was “behind” him. Throughout the rest of their lives, she’s been right beside him.
The couple learned all about the coaching profession together, having met as college students. After a two-year courtship, they joined forces as man and wife. This year, they’ll celebrate 58 years of marriage, with the majority of it joined at basketball’s hip. Such is the life of a coach and his wife.
On Saturday, Angelina College recognized both husband and wife by naming the Shands Gymnasium floor “Guy and Dorothy Davis Court.”
Of course they’d be side-by-side on a basketball court. They’ve always been that way.
* * *
Guy Davis was a marked man, and he didn’t even know it.
Asked about first meeting his eventual bride, Guy recalls a gathering in an ice-cream shop near the campus of Lamar University in Beaumont, where he and Dorothy attended. Guy played for the Cardinal basketball team, while Dorothy was studying to become a teacher.
“We met at a place called Carnation,” Guy says, “which was an ice-cream shop that served sandwiches and stuff. That’s where all the students went on Sunday nights because the cafeteria was closed. She just happened to be there that night –”
“I didn’t just ‘happen’ to be there,” Dorothy laughs.
“—and it just took off from there.”
The little ice-cream shop may have been their “first” face-to-face encounter, but Dorothy admits the meeting was by no means random.
“I was eating breakfast with my roommate at Lamar one morning when Guy walked into the cafeteria wearing faded blue jeans and a pair of cowboy boots,” Dorothy recalls. “I told my friend, ‘I don’t know who that guy is, but I’m going to find out.’ I asked around about him, and found out he was an athlete, so I started going to see his games. A few weeks rocked on, and we eventually got introduced. We had our first real date on his birthday that year, and we got married in February of 1960.”
Neither at the time had any idea what life had in store for them. Then, Dorothy planned to be a teacher, while Guy was a college basketball player. There was no way of knowing he would go on to a coaching career spanning nearly four decades, or that she would stand in front of a classroom over the same span.
The coaching profession is known for inflicting numerous casualties on the home front, but Dorothy and Guy learned to endure everything together. When their children, Dawn and Guy, Jr., arrived, the kids learned how to do homework in the car on the way to games – or in the bleachers inside gymnasiums scattered all over the state of Texas.
“It’s not an easy road,” Dorothy says, “but I realized how important coaching and teaching were to Guy, so I consider it my job as his wife to support him. There were some times I wondered how I could do this, especially when sitting on those hard bleachers at all those ball games. I did it because of my love and respect for him.
“I was always taught to support your spouse in whatever they’re doing. There were parts I didn’t like at times: The long hours, the being away from home, but it’s all part of it. You have to be tough. It was just part of our lives. I hope I taught our children something along the way, that you sometimes do things even when they’re hard. My decision was to support my husband in whatever he did, and I taught our kids that if their dad was doing something, we were going to be there.”
The respect is, and always has been, mutual. Dorothy taught second- and third-grade students for 42 years. She says every year, when it was time to set up her new classroom with bulletin boards and the like, Guy was right there helping her.
Over the years, they learned to glean from one another aspects from one spouse’s job that would help in the other.
“Dorothy has always been blessed with the ability to really look at kids and see what they can do,” Guy says. “I didn’t have that as much as she did, but because she was so good at it, I was able to take some of it and use it in my job, especially when it comes to learning where each kid comes from and what they have to put up with in their lives. I didn’t have that in the beginning. It all came from her.”
Guy says he took his bride on numerous recruiting trips just because of her ability to see the whole person. He tells of the time he’d watched a young man play several times; Guy was ready to walk away unimpressed.
“Dorothy saw him once and told me, ‘That kid’s a winner.’ She was right,” Guy says. “He turned out to be a great player and a great young man.
“She also told me about two guys I shouldn’t take. I took one of them anyway, and she ended up being right again.”
Dorothy says she also picked up some elements from her husband’s job that came in handy in her classrooms – not running laps or doing dropdowns, but other parts of shaping young minds.
“He showed me that I should set an example for kids in showing them how to work hard and do the right things, to make better choices,” Dorothy says. “Guy has always said wins are important, but his job was to see that the kids not only excelled on the court but in the classroom and life as well. If you do work in the classroom, you’ll do the work everywhere else, and you’ll have a better chance of becoming successful.”
Guy recalls a meeting with a legendary coach – a meeting involving ideas the coach carried with him his entire career.
“A long time ago, when I first started coaching, I got to visit with Bobby Knight,” Guy says. “One of the things he told me I always remembered was that there will always be a direct correlation between the effort given in the classroom and the effort given on the basketball court. Boy, was he right.”
* * *
The Davis’ old tax returns will show the couple claiming two dependents: Dawn and Guy, Jr.
But combining nearly century’s worth of working so closely with young people means absorbing many of them into one’s own family. Nowhere is the concept more evident than in the way the former players continue to reach out and interact with “Coach” and “Mama Dee.”
“We tried to include our athletes as part of our family,” Dorothy says. “If they came to AC, they were part of the Davis family. There were several years during Thanksgiving or Christmas those kids couldn’t go home. They lived too far away, or there were other circumstance involved. So I cooked their holiday dinners.”
Guy says in the early years, the couple lived in a small mobile home. Trying to plan holiday visits to include blood family with adopted family became a challenge – a welcome one, according to both Dorothy and Guy.
“When we first started talking about having players over for dinner, I’d ask Dorothy what in the world we were going to do,” Guy says. “All those kids, all our family members…we all jammed inside that mobile home, and you’d have thought we were in a palace.”
Dorothy laughs about it now. “They were piled up everywhere, on the floor, on the couch, wherever they could fit. And we had more fun than we ever would have had at a restaurant.”
Guy tells the story of one player nearly setting his home on fire, and he laughs when mimicking Dorothy trying to put out the flames while consoling the young fire starter.
“When we got our house, we added a room that had a fireplace,” Guy says. “We’d never had a fire in it, but during one holiday visit, my guard said he knew how to build a fire. He started it, and the first thing that happened was a big spark flew out and landed on our brand-new carpet. It burned a big hole in it, but Dorothy never said a word but ‘It’s alright’ and helped him beat out the fire.”
No testimonial could better express those players’ love for the couple than the text message Guy received just Wednesday:
“We’re father and son forever, and nothing will change that. Your son just has to work this week to pay these bills for his wife and daughter. Little girl and wife are a handful, along with all these kids and parents I’m coaching. To top it off, my nephew is the No. 1 player in the Class of 2020, and I’m getting calls from Nike, Under Armour and Adidas all day. My love, heart and soul are extremely happy for both of you. Give my love to Mama Dee, and give her a big kiss for me. Love you both forever. Roderick.”
The message came from Roderick Anderson, an AC – and later, a University of Texas – basketball legend who is now a father and a coach.
Lawrence Purke, who also played for Guy, said all the players thought of Dorothy as a “second mom away from home.”
“I never once thought I could take the place of someone’s mother,” Dorothy says, but those kids were away from home, in a new situation and just starting college for the first time. I always told every kid, including my own students, if they needed me to call me.”
* * *
Saturday’s ceremony, which took place as part of the Roadrunner vs. San Jacinto basketball game, marked a homecoming of sorts for former players on-hand to celebrate the couple’s honor. A reunion took place afterward, with those men sharing stories and hugs with their adopted parents. They watched the game inside Shands Gymnasium while taking a memory lane-type stroll on the floor of the old gymnasium next door where all those years ago they sat on the bench next to Guy – and in front of Dorothy.
When the lights inside Shands Gymnasium went out on Saturday night, everyone headed back to their lives. There were exchanges of phone numbers and promises of more gatherings in the future.
Finally, the gym lay empty, but the inscription on the Shands Gymnasium floor remained – where it will stay.
“Guy and Dorothy Davis Court.”
Both names belong there together.
After 58 years, they’ve shown there really is no one without the other.
Gary Stallard’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sports Information Director Gary Stallard, who also serves as a Liberal Arts Instructor, begins his eleventh season with Angelina College. Following a career as a U.S. Marine, Stallard completed his bachelor’s degree at Stephen F. Austin University, where he majored in English and Journalism. For more than 16 years, he has worked as a sports writer/columnist/photographer for the Lufkin Daily News; he continues to contribute free-lance articles on occasion. Stallard has won several awards for writing, including the Golden Hoops Award for basketball writing in 2003, Regional Sports Writer of the Year in 2004, and the Texas Press Association’s first-place award for column writing in 2007 and in 2014. He has also done basketball, football and baseball radio and live streaming play-by- play and color commentary for an ESPN affiliate. Currently Stallard serves as play-by-play broadcaster for AC basketball, baseball and softball games.
Prior to arriving at Angelina College, Stallard taught English at Lufkin High School for four years. He currently teaches Developmental Writing classes at AC. He and his wife Susan live in Lufkin.
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