Jack Baker first took the job as head basketball coach of the Maury High School junior varsity team when he was 22 years old. He was barely older than the players he would be coaching. Three years later, he took over as head coach of the varsity team.
Not even he expected his career would last more than four decades.
“I was hoping, honestly to go maybe 10 or 12 years,” said Baker, who announced earlier this week that he’s called his last play as the Commodores’ head man.
“Calling it a career,” he said. “41 years is enough.”
Baker’s 746 wins rank third best in Virginia High School League history. His teams have also won 19 conference titles, six region championships and made a state final. “I just enjoyed it so much…I enjoyed the people and the players I was associated with, and I was having a good time,” said Baker.
His teams rarely lacked for talent. Baker has coached a number of players who rose to and above the Division I ranks, including Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety Kam Chancellor and Joe Smith, who turned in an All-American career at the University of Maryland and was later drafted number one overall in the 1995 NBA Draft.
“Just a lot of memories, a lot of good memories, a lot of very very good players,” said Baker. One of those players is now one of his best friends. Cornel Parker played at Maury in the late 80’s, and credits Baker for his four year career at the University of Virginia.
“He was the person who stayed on me in the building to make sure I was doing the right things to go to college and have the opportunity to get a scholarship,” said Parker, who’s now the head women’s coach at Bryant and Stratton College.
“To me, he was my coach, my friend, my big brother, and a father figure all in one.”
Baker may be done coaching, but he plans to stick around and teach at Maury for a few more years. Whoever steps in as the Commodores’ next head coach, Parker believes, “Nobody will replace him.”