They turned the clock 40 years at the Clayton Gymnasium on Friday night, back to the ‘70s when Jeff Adams was in the midst of a very successful 16-year run as Comets head basketball coach.
Most notably, back to 1976, the year that Adams led the Comets to the 2A state championship.
The longtime coach was honored between the girls and boys varsity games when a banner reading “Jeff Adams Gymnasium” was unveiled under the scoreboard.
It was a night for back-slapping, hugs and smiles all around as former players gathered to see their coach honored.
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Adams accepted the honor humbly if not somewhat reluctantly. He never was the kind of guy who was looking for honors, just a hard-working coach who wanted his teams to play disciplined, organized basketball.
“It’s just an awesome feeling and it’s a tremendous honor,” Adams said after the banner was unveiled. “And one that I’m not convinced that I’m worthy of. But I didn’t have a vote on it.”
He continued: “I respect the honor and really appreciate it. Clayton is a special place to me. I came here in 1966 and have been here ever since.”
The 1975-76 season was a special one. The Comets started slowly, Adams said, but came together in January and beat Elm City 71-66 in the title game.
“They were a very close-knit group, smart players,” Adams said of the ’76 team. “They respected each other, liked each other. Most of them are here tonight and it was like brothers bonding together again when they saw each other. And they played that way.”
The Comets had finished third in the 1975 state playoffs and were determined to make a run at a tile the following season.
“We had a vision that we could get back there,” said ’76 team member Robert Poole. “There were no superstars. But we played defense. And it seemed like someone different would step up each game. But we played for Coach. He was a great man, a great person all the way around.”
He continued: “He was very strict and when he spoke all eyes were on him. He was very demanding but you respected that.”
Adams taught more than basketball, said Andy Pleasant, an assistant coach on the ’76 squad. The head coach believed in instilling character in his players.
“He didn’t put up with any mess,” Pleasant said. “You had to be a good class person or you didn’t wear the uniform. He was so organized with his practices and very motivational with his stuff on the locker room wall.”
Adams began his career at Clayton in 1966 and coached basketball 16 seasons. He also coached baseball, junior varsity football, golf and began a cross country program at the school.
His basketball teams qualified for the district tournament 11 times and won the district championship twice. The Comets won three conference titles and finished second three times. In golf, his teams won seven conference championships, a sectional championship and a regional championship.
Since his retirement, Adams has continued to support Clayton athletics by regularly attending games. From now on, when he goes to a basketball game, his name will be on the wall.