Legendary Gulfport High basketball coach Bert Jenkins is still in the hospital after suffering a heart attack late Monday afternoon, former assistant and close friend Gerald Austin told the Sun Herald.
Austin said that as of Wednesday morning Jenkins, 90, was not completely responsive but has his family by his side at Merit Health Wesley near his home in Hattiesburg.
His wife, Lil, said she didn’t want to cast a dark shadow, but her husband was having difficulties recovering.
During his 28-year coaching career, Jenkins posted an 866-180 overall record with seven state titles, 13 Big Eight Conference titles, 18 30-win seasons and three 40-win seasons.
“He was the best as far as I’m concerned,” Austin said. “The best 19 years of my life in coaching were being his assistant. He was just the best. He was always able to get the best out of his players.”
Five players from Jenkins’ 40-0 team in 1975 traveled to Hattiesburg to hang out with their coach for several hours Saturday morning.
“He was in great spirits,” said Frank Bertucci, who was joined by teammates Gary Holliman, Eddie Handy, Ray Gilner and Jeff Jenkins. “Coach was looking good. It was a good day for him and of course he enjoyed the heck out of seeing us. It was fun to reminisce. It was a great visit.”
Bertucci remarked Jenkins’ mind was as sharp as ever.
“He could probably still coach basketball,” Bertucci said. “There’s no question he’s a fighter. I think he’ll fight hard. Going back to his service time, he’s faced adversity throughout his life. I’m expecting the best.”
Earlier this summer, Gulfport High re-did the Bert Jenkins Gymnasium’s floor, adding the signature of its namesake.
“It serves as tribute to Coach Jenkins,” Bryan Caldwell said at the time. “For me, I just think it’s so important to remember Coach Jenkins and all he meant to basketball in our state.
“I want his name to be remembered as long as the building is here.”
Jenkins will be 91 in November.