Dave Odom, a native of Goldsboro, spent 43 years in coaching, and while he says it sounds “old and cliched,” relationships outweighed championships.
“It was the day to day,” he said, “but even more so the continuing relationships you fostered and revisit almost yearly.”
Involved in sports from the time he could walk, Odom was a quarterback in football, point guard in basketball and second baseman in baseball and captained those teams his senior year in 1960 at Goldsboro High.
He went on to Guilford College where he played football and two years of basketball for coach Jerry Steele, a move that solidified his decision to coach.
“I never had a bad coach growing up,” Odom said. “They always taught life’s lessons and made such an impact. I saw that as something I could do, a way to give back.”
Out of college, he coached football, basketball and baseball at Goldsboro High. In 1969 he moved to Durham High coaching basketball, football and tennis. He worked Duke’s basketball camps and got a taste of the college life listening to Duke assistant’s Hubie Brown, Chuck Daly and Bucky Waters.
“I was right in the middle of college basketball,” Odom said.With Daly’s recommendation, he became the first southern coach to work the prestigious Five-Star Basketball Camp.
“That gave me a platform to show what I could do,” Odom said.From 1976-79 he was an assistant to Carl Tacy at Wake Forest before taking the head coaching job at East Carolina where he was 38-42 in three seasons. Terry Holland hired him as an assistant at Virginia in 1982. In his seven seasons the Cavaliers earned five NCAA berths.
He had his greatest success at Wake Forest, starting a 12-year run in 1989. His teams were 240-132, posting winning records and earning post-season berths his final 11 years. From 1992-97, the Deacs won 118 games, including ACC Tournament titles in 1995 and 1996, the school’s first league championships since 1962. He was national coach of the year in 1995 and a three-time ACC coach of the year.
In 2001, he took the coaching job at South Carolina and posted a 128-104 record, with an NCAA bid in 2004 and NIT titles in 2005 and 2006, before retiring in 2008. He was 2004 SEC coach of the year and earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
In 22 years as head coach, Odom posted a career record of 406-278, including 10 seasons of 20 or more wins, nine NCAA and six NIT berths. But for Odom, it still comes down to the players.
“I got a letter from a kid I coached at East Carolina,” Odom said. “He was disappointed I retired. He had a 14-year-old son who he wanted me to coach." He said ‘I wanted you to teach the same lessons you taught me.’
“In the end, it’s not the number of championships but the journey to get there, the experiences along the way. In 43 years, I got more than my share. I’m blessed.”
by GARY McCANNRock Hill (S.C.) Herald Sports Editor
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