Beyond the Scoreboard: Seven wins shy of 400, Gentry ponders football future

Photo Courtesy of David Gentry

After 47 years of coaching high-school football, David Gentry has earned some time off.

And WNC’s all-time leader in coaching wins is going to take awhile to decide if he wants to continue his Hall of Fame career.

Just seven wins shy of 400, the Murphy High coach will spend the next month or two resting up and figuring out if he wants to continue his assault on the record books.

Gentry said his year-to-year approach on pondering retirement and reassessing his future has worked for him in recent seasons.

“I’ve probably done this for eight years now,” said Gentry, 71, after a busier than usual 2017.

In addition to leading the Bulldogs to a 12-3 record and a berth in the Western Regional 1A title game, Gentry picked up an unofficial win in his career total last month as head coach of the N.C. Shrine Bowl squad.

“I’ll take some time off this month and probably into February and decide what I want to do. Right now I’m still the head coach, and we had a real good year.”

His 47-year coaching record of 393-192, which is 192 wins more than No. 2 Charles “Babe” Howell among WNC coaches, includes seven state titles.

And in May Gentry joined Howell, the Sylva-Webster High legend, as a member of the WNC Sports Hall of Fame.

His Bulldogs put up a competitive defense of their 2016 state championship, earned a share of the Smoky Mountain 1-A Conference regular-season title and was the only squad that beat eventual state champion Cherokee.

Gentry, who has averaged a WNC-best 11.9 wins per season over the past 10 years, is expected to reach 400 wins during the 2018 season if he returns.

The leader in wins by active N.C. coaches, Gentry is 19 away from the state’s all-time record for victories held by Jack Holley (412-96-9 in 44 years). Bob Paroli (403-206-13 in 55 seasons) is second in career victories.

In a 2008 interview when he had 274 career wins, Gentry talked about his year-to-year approach to staying in coaching and what an honor it would be to catch coach Howell.

“I don’t necessarily want to break Babe’s record,” said Gentry. “I think 300 would be a nice round number, and then it would be time to let somebody else do this for awhilethat’s a number I’ve thought about quite a bit.”

A native of Asheville who grew up in Hendersonville, Gentry began his head coaching career at Chatham, Va., where he was 12-17 in three seasons. He moved on to Edneyville High (now North Henderson) in 1974, posting a nine-year mark of 44-58.

Gentry’s 337-117 mark in 35 seasons at Murphy (1983-present) is a state record for wins at one school, and his seven state titles rank him second in the state and WNC to Robbinsville’s Bob Colvin, who won 11 championships.


{To qualify, coaches must have spent the majority of their careers and earned the majority of their wins in WNC. The school listed in where each coach spent the majority of their career).
Coach/Record/ Winning Pct./ Seasons

  1. *David Gentry, Murphy 393-192 .671 47
  2. Charles “Babe” Howell, Sylva-Webster 301-122 .711 38
  3. Boyce Deitz, Swain County 233-87-3 .728 23
  4. Carroll Wright, Pisgah 232-102-8 .694 31
  5. Kenny Ford, Owen 230-117 .662 29
  6. *Bruce Ollis, Polk County 218-150 .592 36
  7. Lou Fogle, Asheville 213-109-4 .661 34
  8. C.E. Weatherby, Waynesville 213-51-4 .806 27
  9. Joe Hunt, Hendersonville 205-82-8 .714 30
  10. Bob Colvin, Robbinsville 182-57-2 .761 20
  11. Dick Fassoyoux, Christ School 175-NA NA 42
  12. Doug Brooks, Tuscola 172-102 .627 24
  13. Scott Conner, Reynolds 171-60-1 .740 21
  14. Danny Wilkins, Asheville 167-89-1 .652 20
  15. Elmo Neal, Tryon 169-112-16 .601 30
  16. Norris Jones, Roberson 166-113-11 .594 30
  17. Dan Essenberg, Brevard 146-107-1 .577 21
  18. Hugh Hamilton, East Henderson 145-71-7 .703 22
  19. B.J. Laughter, Hendersonville 141-78 .674 17
  20. *Dee Walsh, Robbinsville 137-69 .656 17
  21. Phil Brintnall, Hendersonville 134-75 .653 18
  22. Boyd Allen, Canton 133-31-3 .820 15
  23. B.H. “Hop” Arbogast, Asheville School 126-178 .414 38
  24. Doug Greene, Mitchell 117-76-7 .606 19
  25. *Josh Brooks, Franklin 116-41 .738 13