‘You wanna be like him.’ Colleagues remember Hall of Fame coach John D. Wilson

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Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 6:34 PM EDT
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HARLAN COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - In 55 years of coaching, KHSAA Hall of Famer John D. Wilson meant a lot to generations of student-athletes at multiple schools.

“He impacted so many generations going back to the 60′s through the 2010′s,” Harlan County sports reporter John Henson said.

Wilson’s coaching persona was no different than the man he was off the court. The Harlan County native was a leader of young men.

“Even when some bad things happened to him, as they will in coaching, he was always real positive and looked at the best side of life, and that’s an attitude we can all learn from,” John Henson said.

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That leadership style was captured by colleagues across the region looking to have the same impact.

Even the Kentucky all-time leader in wins for boys’ high school basketball.

“He was the man. He was not only a great person in his behavior and everything, but he was also a great athlete. He’s the kind of guy, when you’re around him, watching him, you wanna be like him,” retired basketball coach Billy Hicks said.

Wilson set a foundation that coaches could follow, even if it seemed overly simple.

“I took the Loyall Junior High job, and John D. had won numerous championships at Loyall at the middle school level, and I asked, ‘John D., any advice you give me?’ He said one thing. He said, ‘teach them how to dribble. Teach them how to dribble,’ and I never forgot that,” Billy Hicks said.

John D. Wilson was buried at the Resthaven Cemetery. He was 84.