Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
A wise man once told Charles Davis as he embarked on his career as a high school teacher and baseball coach to “show up to work every day and do your job.”
Those words from from his father, Dick — who died in 2008 — served the Wilson County native and 1982 Beddingfield High graduate well for 27 years as the head coach at C.B. Aycock. But last spring, Davis heeded the advice of two more wise men — legendary former coaches James R. “Rabbit” Fulghum of Greene Central and Doyle Whitfield of Southern Wayne.
“They both told me, you will know when it’s time,” Davis said of his decision to retire at the end of the 2016-17 school year. “I thought about it and prayed about it and when I made my decision I was at peace with it.”
With two knee-replacement surgeries in recent years, Davis, who had been the athletic director at Aycock since 1994, said he was ready to step down.
One reason he was able to walk away is that Davis knew he was leaving the Golden Falcons baseball program — which he directed to 512 victories, 13 conference championships, 25 state playoff appearances and the 2007 North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A championship — in the capable hands of one of his former players and longtime assistant coach Allen Thomas, the younger brother of Davis’ wife, Rhonda, who also teaches at Aycock.
“He was ready. He had been my assistant for 11 years,” Davis said. “I wanted to have somebody in place who would continue to do things, I guess you could say the Aycock way. I have all the confidence in the world that Allen’s going to do that.”
Thomas, a 2005 CBA graduate who played collegiate baseball at Louisburg College, UNC Greensboro and Mount Olive, welcomes the opportunity even though he will be coaching on the field named for his predecessor at a school where winning has been an annual tradition. But, as Thomas reminded, he’s had the best role model and mentor he could have.
“I’ve sat here and watched the way he’s done things and I’m very honored to take over and keep doing things the way he’s been doing it,” said Thomas, who started teaching math and coaching baseball and football at CBA in 2005.
Thomas, who has taken Davis’ former position as physical education instructor at CBA, also pointed out that Davis will continue on with the Falcons as a part-time volunteer assistant coach.
“He’s still going to be around and I’m still going to lean on him to ask questions,” Thomas said.
While Davis happily points out that he has started two home businesses, detailing cars and pressure washing, in his retirement, he will be excited to get back on the field Feb. 1 after his six-month retirement buffer period expires.
“I love getting out there working on the fields and mowing the fields,” he said.
Taking care of the field that bears his name has been one of Davis’ passions, Thomas said.
“The last thing he said to me when we walked off the field after the last game last spring was, ‘The only thing I’m going to ask of you, as long as my name’s on this field make sure it looks the way it’s supposed to look,’” Thomas said.
Thomas said that former Falcons and University of North Carolina star Adam Pate will join his coaching staff, along with Logan Runyon and Matthew Radford.
The Falcons will have several key players back from the 2017 team that went 19-7 and finished second in the ultra-competitive 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference.
Davis said that he decided to step down when he did, in part because, “I also wanted to make sure that the year I left, they would have a chance to have a pretty good team.”
Thomas said that in recent seasons Davis has gradually given him more responsibilities towards eventually becoming the Falcons head coach. An attentive coach-in-waiting, Thomas said what he’s learned from Davis was incalculable.
“Oh, man! A lot!” Thomas said. “Just from the way he is as far as structure, time management, what not to say to kids, how to encourage kids and get the most out of them. Sometimes it’s best not to say anything at all.
“I’ve just learned to keep my composure from him. I’ve seen him get upset and mad but I’ve never seen him lose his composure.
“I guess the main thing is to just how to do things the right way.”
HALL OF FAMER
While Davis has stayed busy so far in retirement — including going to see his daughter, Connor, coach her Holly Springs High volleyball team or son, Kyle, a sophomore pitcher at Pitt Community College — he will add one more thing to his to-do list this week. Davis will be inducted into the North Carolina Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame on Friday in Greensboro.
“I’m very honored and humbled and it’s just an unreal feeling to be honest with you,” Davis said. “You don’t get into coaching to win these awards and things like that.”
It will be his third hall-of-fame honor, having been inducted in 2007 into the Mount Olive hall of fame and just last January into Goldsboro coaching legend George Whitfield’s hall of fame.
After a standout career at Beddingfield, Davis attended Mount Olive, then a junior college, for two years before moving on to play at North Carolina Wesleyan College, where he met the man who would become the greatest influence on his coaching career.
“Mike Fox,” Davis said of the current North Carolina head coach who led the Bishops to a pair of NCAA Division III championships in the 1980s. “I was fortunate to play for him for two years and then to be his assistant for two years. Those two years I was his assistant proved to be invaluable.”
Davis also credited his coach at Beddingfield, E.D. Hall, for inspiring him to become a teacher and coach, as well as his former Wilson American Legion Post 13 coaches Alton Britt and Tommy Hawkins for teaching him about the game of baseball.
“I was very fortunate to grow up and have not only good baseball people but good men,” he said.
But by the time Davis came in contact with any of his coaches, he had already learned some valuable lessons from his parents, Faye and Dick Davis, while growing up in Black Creek.
“The way they brought me up was to be respectful to everyone, work hard, show up to work every day,” Davis said.
Davis coached two years at Norwayne Middle before taking over for Dee Glover as the Aycock varsity baseball coach in July 1990. Four years later he added athletic director to his duties, which he held until last June. Jon Horton succeeded him as the Aycock AD.
Davis said that he realized early on that Aycock was the place for him.
“I had a couple of chances to leave back in the ‘90s but I was happy where I was at,” he said. “This was home. The community and administration have been nothing but supportive of me.”
Davis’ legacy on the field is unassailable with a .734 career winning percentage (512-186-1) that includes 13 conference championships, five conference tournament titles and two state runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2015 along with the 2007 state 3-A championship. Amazingly, his CBA teams finished either first or second in the conference in 25 of his 27 seasons. Davis was voted conference coach of the year 11 times, including each of the last two years in the 3-A/4-A ECC. He was named Region 2 Coach of the Year by the N.C. Baseball Coaches Association in 1995, 2007 and 2015 and the National Federation of High School Coaches Association Sectional Coach of the Year in 2015. Davis was the recipient of the NCHSAA’s Region 2 Homer Thompson Sportsmanship Award in 2009.
He has had 62 players go on to play in the collegiate ranks and two were drafted by major league teams out of high school. Eight of his former players signed minor league contracts.
But through all of that, Davis said the wins and awards aren’t what makes him the proudest about his career.
“The players,” he said. “Honestly, it’s the players. I don’t think a coach, especially in high school, should be remembered for how many championships they won or coach-of-the-years they won. All those things are fine but a coach should be remembered about the impact he’s had on his players.
“They have turned out to be good men.”