Robert Gordon stepped aside as head coach of the Myrtle Hawks baseball team recently, but the long-time skipper will remain at Myrtle in his athletic director role and pitching in wherever he can assist his school and coaching staffs.
Gordon's first and only job has been at Myrtle and he just completed year 25 with the Hawks.
"When I first got here (1997), Mr. Paul Nolan hired me from a reference from Coach (Elvis) Thomas, who was still here at that time and he took a risk at hiring me," Gordon said. "I hadn't my test yet, I was fresh out of college, so I hired on as an assistant with softball, basketball and I was the co-head coach of baseball."
Gordon became the sole head coach the following year and finished his 25-year stint with the Hawks sporting a record of 423-246-1.
He also took over as head coach of the slowpitch softball program beginning in the 1998 season.
All total, Gordon was head coach for baseball for 24 years and softball for 15 years.
Gordon led the Hawks to a state championship in 2002 in baseball as they defeated St. Aloysius for the title.
"That was probably the banner year as far as calendar years because in the fall of that year, we won a state championship in softball and in the spring of that year we won our first-ever state championship in baseball," Gordon said.
Gordon reflected on many of the teams that he had the privilege to coach and a few rise to the top as most memorable.
"I've had several really good teams, we've made some really good runs," he said. "The 2001 team was really good, we ran into a buzzsaw with Hamilton, they had won it a couple of years in a row and they went on to win it again.
"The next year we beat them in the north half and that was one of the best years ever because we did something that nobody in the county had ever done at the time (winning state baseball title). It was a big deal. We got hot, we went 8-0 in the playoffs and won it.
"I look back and there was a lot of really good teams that I had and I just thought going into the year that we've got a shot at winning this if everything falls right and we get hot at the right time.
Myrtle played for another state championship in 2010, facing the same foe from the 2002 series, St. Aloysius, but this time the Hawks came up on the short end and lost the series.
"We played in Pearl and got beat in three games," Gordon said. "I think all we did was make them mad after we won the second game.
"We did a walk-off and we made them mad because in the third game, it was bad. Funny thing was from 2002 to 2010, we end up playing the same team, but those were two good seasons."
The Hawks have been regulars in the postseason playoffs under Gordon, but some years the breaks just didn't go Myrtle's way despite having talented teams as they ran into stiff competition from the likes of TCPS, West Union, Ingomar and Smithville.
"People coach their whole lives and never get to experience winning their last game and obviously we got to do that," Gordon said. "You look at what Coach (Chris) Basil has done over at East Union which is just remarkable and it's come later on in his career.
"I was fortunate to win a state championship in my fourth or fifth year and it was really fun. Coach Basil told me 'that's special because it is extremely hard to do and things have really got to fall your way.'"
Gordon had some great years with the Myrtle softball program, winning four state championships during his 15 year tenure.
"I was fortunate enough to win some titles in softball, won it the year that I was an assistant and I won four state championships other than that, he said. "I was part of six state championships total."
Gordon shared how he had coached a lot of really good players over the years and how special it was to be a part of their career.
"I had the Judon kid that signed with Ole Miss and he went over there and played a year or so, but I've had a lot of really good players come through," Gordon said. "I had the Hill boys back in the day, had my nephew that pitched that final game in the state championship.
"We had full count, bases loaded, two out and we are up by 3-2 and the runners are going to be running and he throws a breaking ball for a swing-thru strike three and we win the game.
"Why did he throw the breaking ball? He had confidence in it and I always said he had ice water in his veins."
Gordon said most of the memories are about just how special the players were as people.
"I've had a bunch of good kids, super good kids," Gordon said. "The parents, just everyone have been exceptional and supportive of us.
"I'm glad to slow my role with some of my stuff where I can go watch my daughter (Kinsley Gordon) play (at Southern Miss), but I am still obligated as athletic director and teaching classes.
"I'm going to try to be involved as much as I can and help out in baseball, I don't know that I can quit it cold-turkey, so I did volunteer to help. I will probably help out in softball some, just where my wife (Brooke) needs me."
Gordon will be turning over the head coaching duties to Heath Robbins and Eric Baker will continue on as assistant coach. Both men played under Gordon at Myrtle.
"I've been absolutely blessed, God has blessed me beyond imaginable, " Gordon said. "Mr. Nolan later told me how proud of me he was and I guess he did not expect me to be as impactful in the sport as I was.
"He said 'Man, you were a great hire, I was so skeptical about hiring you at first, but you have done outstanding.' That was a great compliment coming from someone that I looked up to."