Jack Hardin, Only Basketball Coach to Take Bulldogs to Final Four (Twice), Dies
FlaglerLive | May 24, 2011
Jack Hardin, who took Bunnell High School’s and Flagler Palm Coast High School’s boys’ basketball team to the state semi-finals in 1973 and 1981–the only local coach to do so–died Tuesday morning. He was 77.
Hardin had been living at his property on County Road 302 since the mid-1990s. He’d retired about a decade earlier. He was a social science teacher, and in 1973 was an assistant principal at Bunnell High School.
He had also been a Bunnell city commissioner, taking office in the late 1970s. He faced no opposition when he retained the seat in April 1982, though the job appeared to have bored him somewhat: he soon announced that he’d resign that November to run for the Flagler County School Board, against Herschel King. Hardin lost in the primary, failing to get into a run-off by just two votes: James Upson bested him. Upson went on to lose against King.
In 1973, Hardin led the Bunnell Bulldogs to the Class 1A semifinals, beating Orlando’s Lake Highland Prep in the regional semi-finals, 53-45 (in overtime), and crushing Clearwater Central Catholic, 79-53, before falling to Coral Gables’ Deerborne–which, like the Bunnell Bulldogs, no longer exists–, 73-60. Deerborne went on to lose to Tallahassee’s FAMU in the finals, 76-65, at the Jacksonville Coliseum, the first of three championships in four years for FAMU. Leroy Jenkins was among the team’s stars.
In 1981, playing in Class 2A, Flagler Palm Coast High School defeated Mount Dora, 58-41, in the regionals, beat Wymore, 67-71, in the sectionals, and lost to P.K. Younge, 37-35, in the semi-final. Port St. Joe won the championship that year, beating P.K. Younge 47-41.
Hardin’s philosophy was simple. In his words, “hard work, discipline and the fundamentals.”
Roger Vaccaro, now a professor of writing and American literature at St. Johns River State College in St. Augustine, was on the 1980 and 1981 teams as a shooting guard. He’d moved to Palm Coast from Washington, D.C., in 1980 and remember Hardin as an intimidating force. It was “actually pretty scary,” Vaccaro remembers, “he’d get so intense, and the longer I played with him the more I realized how much he cared.” When the team won, there wasn’t much surprise: It was expected to win.
Hardin was always prepared. He carried a brown briefcase with him and used it as his chalkboard to map out plays, even at games. And he chewed tobacco, carrying with him an empty tennis can to spit out the stuff. He was on the look-out for his players, too–perhaps more so for his Bunnell players than his Palm Coast players.
“He would put his whole team in his truck, and after practice every day he would drive them home,” said Steve DeAugustino, whose early coaching years coincided with Hardin’s late years, back when there weren’t that many sports. “It was football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, track. Pretty limited.” DeAugustino is the athletic director at FPC.
“He was a straight-shooter,” DeAugustino said. “He’d tell them exactly what they needed to do, he was clear on what he expected.”
Until recently, Hardin kept a blueberry patch near his property.
Tuesday afternoon, Gary McDaniel, the first-year coach of FPC’s boys basketball team, was monitoring a scrimmage in the school’s main gym, sitting beneath the two banners from Hardin’s best seasons. McDaniel had never known Hardin. But he wanted to contribute a few words. “On behalf of the Flagler Palm Coast basketball family, I want to extend our sincere condolences to Coach’s family and friends,” McDaniel said. “Anyone who spends time, gives of themselves, and pours into the lives of young people deserves a tremendous reward.”
[Note: your stories and memories about Coach Hardin are welcome. Please add them in the comments.]