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Bucs 50 Years of History-Spotlight Coach Larry Wilson
September 21, 2012Hoover High School
Coach Larry Wilson-the Bucs first head football coach and his reflections on Bob Finley
By Wayne Wood
Coach Larry Wilson came to the young Berry High School from Fairfield and had once coached under legendary Red Lutz. Coach Wilson graduated from Birmingham's Woodlawn High School and later from Howard College (now Samford University). He began the young Buccaneer program in 1962 with the help of assistants Bud Bishop and Jimmy Johnson. Bob Finley later joined the staff in 1964. They established a sound program with winning seasons each year through 1965 after which Wilson left for other professional ventures in education. He still lives in the Birmingham area being retired for several years. Here are his thoughts on Bob Finley as told to me in 2002.
"The first time I met Bob Finley was in the summer of 1964. It didn't take long to realize he was a quality guy and one that would be an asset to the Berry coaching staff. We were looking for a head basketball coach and assistant football coach to work with our young kids, primarily freshmen sophomores on our "B" team.
As we talked, I knew right off that Bob was a committed Christian and family man who had his priorities in order and that our students and players would take away a lot from being around him. We talked about what his current responsibilities were at Fayette (the high school where Finley had previously coached and earlier played at) and what we would ask him to do with us.
As a graduate of the University of Tennessee, where he had lettered as a punter, we asked him to work with our kicking game and do most of our scouting of opponents along with his other "B" team football responsibilities and varsity basketball duties. Bob was an outstanding basketball coach. His scouting reports of upcoming football games were detailed and organized. It was evident that he had spent a lot of time preparing them.
When I watched Bob's teams over the years (after Finley had become head coach at Berry), both basketball and football, I could see his personality evolve. He produced athletes that were fundamentally sound, disciplined and gave great effort.
I was disappointed when Bob did not get the head football job when I left for Bessemer in 1966. But eventually he did get the opportunity and took the Berry program to another level. He left a legacy of leadership which developed hundreds of outstanding athletes and many who have become community leaders.
During my tenure in Bessemer as director of athletics, assistant superintendent and later head superintendent, Bob and I talked occasionally by phone particularly the week of the annual Berry and Jess Lanier (now called Bessemer City HS) football game. I was deeply saddened by his premature death but felt fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him and call him my friend."
*The Buccaneer Family is proud to have had men like Larry Wilson lead the program in its' early beginnings. His insights into Bob Finley are also an insight into his own philosophy as an educator and coach. Thank you Coach Wilson for being the first head football coach of the Bucs!