Coach Gerald Sinclair was successful, respected and beloved
By Jim Turner

Posted on August 16, 2015 9:38 PM

Gerald Sinclair, who coached basketball at four Logan County high schools including leading the Logan County Cougars to the Kentucky state championship in 1984, died in his Clarksville home Tuesday. He had been suffering from a brain tumor and had been under the care of hospice for a few weeks.

Funeral services for Coach Sinclair, 77, were held Friday at Hilldale Church of Christ in Clarksville. A number of Logan Countians were present, including some members of that state championship team.

He made his first coaching stop in the Land of Logan at Adairville High School in 1967-68. The Cardinals had not been to region since 1960, but they went back in Sinclair’s first year on the job. A team led by James Washington, Willard Allen, the late Steve Rodgers, Wayne McCaleb, Phillip Washington and Larry Coker pulled off something of an upset of an Olmstead team led by Jimmy Fuller and Darrell Murphy 55-47 in overtime in the district semifinals before losing 64-61 to Auburn in the finals.

The Cardinals made a late comeback in that championship game. “Another minute and they would have had us,” said Auburn Coach Howard Gorrell, who was directing the Tigers to their seventh straight district championship.

In that same tournament, Lewisburg Coach Bob Birdwhistell felt like his 1968 team was his most talented ever, led by Darrel White and Randall Coffman. Lewisburg had beaten Auburn twice by 20 points each time, but Gorrell’s Tigers upset Birdwhistell’s Rangers in the tournament opener.

Sinclair’s Cardinals beat Cumberland County 64-51 at region behind Allen’s 18 points before losing to eventual state champion Glasgow in the semifinals. Glasgow was coached by Jim Richards, who had coached the Auburn Tigers before Gorrell took over.

In between all his coaching years in Logan County, Sinclair took a side trip and coached Boyle County High School a few years. But soon he came back.

In the interwoven world of Logan County basketball, Sinclair succeeded Gorrell as Auburn coach in 1971-72 when Gorrell moved into the principal’s chair. Gorrell later became the first principal at the new Logan County High School with Birdwhistell as assistant principal and athletic director. And, of course, Gerald Sinclair was the first Cougar head boys basketball coach.

Sinclair’s 1972 Auburn Tigers were considered over-achievers under his tutelage. He started five seniors—Steve McCarley, Gary Johnson, Russell Offutt, Charles Wells and Tony Blakey—with Mike White a top sub. Blakey was the only one of them with much previous varsity experience.

Just as he had an Adairville, Sinclair coached his Auburn team to the district finals in his first year on the job. A heavily favored Adairville team that included the Ed Jones, Danny Finch, Raymond Mason, Steve Thomas, Lan Walker and Nate Miles and went 46-14 over a two-year stint under Coach Tommy Cummings, struggled to beat Sinclair’s upstart Tigers 68-66 in the district finals.

Sinclair coached the Tigers to two more district finals in the next three years, losing to a Russellville team coached each time by former Auburn player Mickey Meguiar and led by future RHS Final Four coach Phil Todd. Among his top players on those Auburn teams were Barry Blakey, Danny Pike, Roger Reynolds and Carl Hayden,

Sinclair’s next stop was at Chandlers High School following the retirement of the late Coach Gordon Pogue. The Bears had not been to region since 1951 and only reached the district finals twice as a school in a half century. Sinclair couldn’t quite get them back there, but he made them competitive each year and he was a beloved figure at the school.

When the five county high schools consolidated into one in 1982, the question of who would be the basketball coaches dominated speculation. Among the possibilities were Barry Reed and Tim Owens, who had just coached the Auburn Tigers and Lady Tigers, respectively, to the regional finals in March. Also in the mix was Lugene Rogers, who had coached the Olmstead Ramblerettes to a string of district championships. Some folks didn’t want Gorrell to be the principal; they wanted him to return to coaching instead. There were also many high profile coaches around the state who were interested in the boys job after having seen Fred Tisdale and Tim Viers play as sophomores for Auburn.

The late J.C. Deberry, who was vice chairman of the Logan County Board of Education, had other ideas. As the representative of the Chandlers district, he campaigned for his school’s coaches, Jim Thompson and Gerald Sinclair. And he was successful in making that happen.

They made Deberry look like a coach-evaluating expert.

In his six seasons as coach before he became the Chandlers principal, Thompson’s Lady Cougars won the district championships and reached the regional finals twice. The first LCHS girls team lost in the regional finals to a Warren Central team featuring future WKU stars Clemmette Haskins and Melinda Carlson (Logic). The Lady Dragons went on to win the state that year. The 1987 Lady Cougars lost in overtime to Franklin-Simpson, which was in the 14th District then.

Added to the pressure of Logan County’s being the preseason number two team in the state before the Cougars had ever played a game in school history, Sinclair’s job got much tougher when center Tisdale—a projected first-team all-stater—suffered an injury that sidelined him the first half of the seasons. Sinclair also had to meld players who had been starters at their old school into a new team which couldn’t start more than five guys. Somehow old rivalries gave way to enthusiasm about the new team.

And the packed seats at the new LCHS gym included a collection of coaches, former coaches and would-be coaches who were analyzing his every decision.

Sinclair handled it all well. Of course, his first Cougar team reached the district finals and won the championship. His second team won the district, the region and the state. Gerald Sinclair was named Kentucky Coach of the Year in a vote that was taken before the state tournament.

With the help of assistant coaches Barry Reed, David Billingsley and David Beckner, the Cougars went undefeated in the regular season and finished with a 37-3 record. The only losses were in the finals of the King of the Bluegrass Tournament, the Louisville Invitational Tournament and the Ashland Invitational Tournament.

Five seniors—Stacey Mason, Karl Wayne Dawson, Tim Thomason, Viers and Tisdale—were the starters. Sinclair developed an eight-man rotation. Senior Gary Barker (who along with Thomason had played for him at Chandlers), John Tisdale and Henry Jones were playing about as much as the starters by the end of the state championship run. (Barker and John Tisdale preceded Coach Sinclair in death.)

Fred Tisdale was named MVP of the Sweet Sixteen and Mason joined him on the all-tournament team.

Sinclair was also a member of the high respected counseling duo when LCHS opened, joining Jo Ann Schweers.

Gerald Sinclair had as much to do as anyone with the successful, smooth start Logan County High School experience.

Gerald Lee Sinclair, was born May 13, 1938 in Adair County, the son of the late Marvin Sinclair and Norene Back Sinclair Tanner.

A 1955 graduate of Russell County High School, he received his B.S. degree from Eastern Kentucky University and his M.A. degree from Western Kentucky University. He spent his career as a teacher, basketball coach and counselor in various high schools in Kentucky and Tennessee.

After his retirement from teaching, he was a member of the Hilldale Church of Christ, where he served as a deacon and the coordinator of the World Bible School. He was also a collector and restorer of antique metal toy soldiers.

He is survived by his wife Joyce Saylor Sinclair, as well as their daughter Carrie Harris & Steve of Clarksville; their sons, Chris Sinclair of Tampa; and Eric Sinclair and Kim of Decatur, Ala. Gerald and Joyce considered themselves blessed to have eight grandchildren, Austin Harris and Lee, Heather, Jordan, Devan, Kade, Mason, and John Evan Sinclair. Joyce is also a former teacher at LCHS.

Gateway Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements. Burial was in Resthaven Memorial Gardens.

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