John Page has coached the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jacket basketball team since 1983. Friday night he officially coached his final home game at Southeast Bulloch, closing the book on a historic coaching career that saw him compile over 300 victories.
Page coached five different sports in his time at Southeast Bulloch, which included being athletic director the past few years as well. In that time Page touched thousands of lives, many of whom tuned out Friday night after the Jackets victory over Savannah High to celebrate his retirement.
“John and I met in the third grade, so we go back over 50 years,” said Milton Williams. “We went to college together and coached together for years. The biggest thing John brought here is a teaching attitude. He is fundamentally a teacher of basketball skills.”
“Off the court I think he has had a much deeper impact on his players,” Williams said. “Not having children himself, I believe all the kids that came through his program were his children. I think it’s been hard for him to leave, because he didn’t want these kids with anyone else but him.”
"From the beginning Coach Page was a pioneer in athletics for the Southeast Bulloch community and beyond," said former SEB girl's coach, and colleague Phil Oliver. "He is an icon who volunteered his time, energy and heart to make athletics open to all. Though he played to win Coach Page instilled character in young men and students."
"Every young person deserves our best," Oliver said. "That is what Coach Page gave every year, every season for every child. Southeast Bulloch High School will forever be indebted."
“We recently went on a trip to Washington, and I think he finally realized there is more to life than basketball,” said Page’s wife Shirley. “We never had any biological kids, but I feel like all of these boys that have come through are our children. We even had a few live with us throughout the years.”
One of those former players that lived at the Page’s house was Larry Harlie, who graduated in 1999.
“Coach Page and Miss Shirley took me in when I didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Harlie said. “He was always more than just my coach, and I consider them my family.’
Mike Sparks actually coached Page as a player in the 70’s at Southeast Bulloch, and then alongside him for years as well.
“John Page is one of the finest Christian men that I have ever met,” Sparks said. “He’s a great coach, and a great friend. I have always called him my brother from another mother. He has meant so much to this community as a coach and has touched so many lives in a positive way.”
Plenty of other coaching colleagues were on hand Friday night as well to pay their respects. One coach that could not make it was Statesboro High head coach Lee Hill, who has been coaching in Bulloch County along with Page for his entire career.
“No matter what kind of team he had his team was always ready to play, and gave everything they had,” Hill said. “He is a great guy, and I can tell you this, his teams have always been disciplined and respectful. I think a team reflects their coach, and that's the kind of person John Page is.”
Former players were on hand as well, including Lamont Roberts from the class of 96. Roberts currently lives in Jackson North Carolina and is in the Marine Corps.
“Coach Page has been an inspiration in my life,” Roberts said. “He was a great coach, but more than that he connected to his players as a father figure, as he helped us go from being boys to being men. Many of us consider him a second father.”
“Coach Page taught me a lot,” said former player Jonathan Wells of the class of 2001. “He taught me plenty of things on and off the court, like discipline and to always give my all when I’m doing something.”
David Wells was a part of the Jackets state playoff run in 1999, and credits coach Page for helping him on and off the court.
“Coach Page helped me to do my best on the basketball court, and in the classroom as well,” Wells said. “He let me work out with the team when I was in the sixth grade, and he was always pushing me because he knew what I could accomplish.”
Coach Page returned to the gym from the locker room after the game Friday night, and was surprised to see the floor and stands packed with fans and former players who came out to honor him after his final home game as Southeast Bulloch head coach.
“It is totally overwhelming, and I am humbled by the turnout,” Page said. “Seeing this crowd it means you touched some lives for the better, but what they may not know is they all touched my life as well. I carry a part of them with me at all times.”
“I see guys here that have moved on to other states and been successful,” Page said. “I see guys that are local concrete workers with families of their own, and it warms my heart to know I may have had some kind of influence in their lives.”
“At the end of the day it’s not about how many wins you have or what you accomplished on the basketball court,” Page said. “It’s about what you have done positive for your family. Me and Shirley never had children of our own, but I consider all of these people out here tonight our family.”