On Tuesday of this week, Dave Thomas worked his last day as an employee of the Pikeville Independent School System. To say he’ll be missed is like saying the Titanic was a little bit of a letdown.
And while he has impacted many the last four years as principal and Lord knows how many in the classroom before that, for those of my ilk, he’ll always be remembered for his coaching prowess.
I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here: I believe if you can coach kids, you can coach anything. Not only has Dave coached everything, he’s been successful beyond imagination. He is the poster child for my theory.
• He won three straight 15th Region titles coaching baseball at Pikeville. Believe it or not, in the long and storied history of baseball at the school, the 1991 title was the first ever for the program. Just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, he repeated in 1992 and threepeated in 1993.
• Years later, he took over as head basketball coach at Pikeville. He won the region there too and competed in the Sweet 16.
• The last several years, he returned to the diamond. This time he chose the smaller variety, though, and for the last two seasons, he has won the 15th Region title in softball.
Forget about the 15th Region; it’s never been done. But how many coaches do you think have ever done that anywhere in the Commonwealth? Several have won a couple; coaches have coached both basketball teams and competed in the state tournament the same years there.
But regional titles in three sports?
Here’s the other thing about Thomas, who came to Pikeville College with his brother Danny from their home in Indiana and chose to never leave. And this is more important that classroom success. More important that being a good leader, both as a principal and coach.
He’s done it all with class.
Look, let’s be honest here. A lot of people don’t like Pikeville simply because it’s Pikeville. It’s something I got over a long time ago, but it still carries through today and I suppose it always will. It’s probably that way for most city schools and here in Pike County, it’s certainly no different.
And while I hear a lot of complaints about a lot of different “Pikeville people,” I don’t remember ever hearing anybody say anything bad about Dave. He’s just, as we like to say, “good people.”
In one of Kelly Wells’ first years at Pikeville College, he somehow coerced Dave into joining his staff. It was and will always remain one of my favorite years.
During that season, the Bears took a trip to Savannah to play Savannah College of Art and Design. On a day off there, we took the team to the historic downtown area and four of us took a guided tour. Dave and I were two of the foursome.
I enjoyed that day more than you’d ever believe, and the four of us laughed our way through the tour. We didn’t laugh at people, we just enjoyed ourselves.
That’s the part of Dave I always enjoyed. No matter what was going on, he enjoyed it. He loves life. Before a regional championship game, he was just as apt to ask about your family as he was to talk strategy or game plans.
He has always been complimentary of his opponent and all of those involved. If you asked me to sum him up in one word, while many would come to mind – winner, champion, success – the one I’d decide on would be class.
I’m thrilled to have known him and to have followed his career. For most of his success, I was in the press box or on the court, and it’s been a pleasure. He has had enormous success, much of it unprecedented, and he deserves to enjoy his retirement.
Something about him, however, tells me he won’t be sitting around resting on his labors. I don’t see him getting fat and reminiscing about his glory days. He’ll stay active and figure out a way to stay involved.
You see, that’s the other thing about Dave Thomas that’s impressive: He doesn’t need nor does he crave the spotlight. He’ll find a way to be involved, to be around it, but not the center of it. That’s not necessary at all with him.
Dave Thomas is a good man, and someone I’m proud to call a friend. If you ever get the chance, strike up a conversation with him.
I’ll promise you won’t regret it.