Jeff Haws’ Top 10 List

Sitting at Miller Grove last week, we couldn’t help but marvel at all the state title banners that hang from the walls.

At The List HQ, there’s nothing we love more than a winner (OK, maybe bacon, but still). And the Miller Grove boys certainly embody that – four straight titles. Nobody has ever done five, but they’ve got their shot at it this year.

Of course, talking about that got us discussing all the great dynasties the state has had over the years, and where the Wolverines stand in that group.

So, here are the top 10 boys basketball dynasties ever …

10. Savannah 1930-32

Coached by John Varnedoe, who eventually became principal and gave the go-ahead for the school’s first girls basketball team, the Blue Jackets broke up former Macon power Lanier’s run with three straight titles in the early 1930s. Each time, they had to take out Lanier, once in the semifinals and twice in the finals.

9. Mitchell-Baker 1998-2000

During 20 years at Mitchell-Baker, this turned out to be coach Rufus McDuffie’s best stretch, despite losing future Georgia star Jumaine Jones to graduation after the 1997 season. They apparently didn’t need him, winning 85 games and three straight titles heading out of the decade.

8. Woodbury 1981, 1983-85

Long-time coach Anzy Hardman notched four of his six total titles during this five-year run. From 1984-85, Woodbury went 59-1 and ran off the school’s only undefeated season en route to the 1984 title.

7. Hogansville 1970-72, 74

John Penland took over a pretty nice situation when he became Hogansville coach going into the 1971 season, with a defending state championship team that didn’t have a single senior on it, now coming back for more. He would go on to win three more titles, including a 30-0 season his first year, which ended with a 48-game winning streak.

6. College Park 1974-76

Coach Ken Ross – who would eventually be inducted into the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame – took the Rams on one heck of a three-year run in the mid 70s. They were 94-3 in that stretch, including a 56-game winning streak and one of fewer than 20 undefeated seasons in state history.

5. Norcross 2006-08

You all know the names – Jodie Meeks, Gani Lawal, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jeremy Lamb, among others – who first made a name for themselves during this dominant stretch for the Blue Devils, then went on to become stars at the next level. It’s one of the more impressive groups ever to come through one Georgia school in such a short stretch.

4. Columbia 2006, 08, 10-12

One of the most amazing things about Columbia’s stretch has been the Eagles’ postseason dominance. In five championship runs, the Eagles have only had four games they’ve won by single digits, none of those coming the past two years. During a time when there’s never been more talent in the state, Columbia is consistently elite.

3. Westover 1990-93

One of the most celebrated players in state history, Dontonio Wingfield was the catalyst for four straight titles for coach Willie Boston, who died in 2006, with many of his former players from what they called the Quad Squad returning for the funeral. They were just the second team to win four straight titles.

2. Lanier 1922, 25-28, 33-34, 36, 38-40, 42, 45, 48, 50-51

This clearly isn’t the new Gwinnett school we’re talking about. Think of these guys as sort of the Valdosta of the basketball world, racking up 16 state titles and losing in the finals six more times between 1922 and 52. They were an immense power in basketball, featuring legendary players like eventual College Football Hall of Famer Vernon “Catfish” Smith and popular 1920s boxer Young Stribling. Hey, the 20s were a different time.

1. Miller Grove 2009-12

While Lanier did it over a longer period of time, we think there’s nothing tougher than winning four in a row in the state today. Well, maybe five. And, at 17-3, this team has a shot at doing just that, even with five new starters in the lineup this season. Coach Sharman White has been a successful head coach for a decade, first taking a Carver-Atlanta team from 3-17 to the state final in a year, then building Miller Grove into a behemoth. He’s said he’d like to coach college one day, and that day should eventually come. Until then, let’s enjoy watching.

Now we want to know what you think. What are the best dynasties in state history? Is Miller Grove’s run overrated? Would you embrace the nickname “Catfish”? Let us know in the comments here or on Twitter at @ajcprepsports.

23 comments Add your comment

pbt dawg fan

January 23rd, 2013
9:57 am

What about Hart county girls in the 90’s

Jeff Haws

January 23rd, 2013
10:07 am

Only listing boys dynasties right now, pbt. May get to the girls too. Just tougher finding good information about some of the older ones, really. Certainly, the 90s Hart County girls will be in the conversation if we go that route as well.

Decatur 4 Life

January 23rd, 2013
12:21 pm

Very interesting, another side note is Columbia lost to Tucker in the 2007 final in the closing minutes of the game. A different outcome in that final and CHS would have a 3 peat in AAAA as well as AAA, also while Miller Grove and Columbia shared the same region in AAAA Miller Grove didn’t win anything they only started their title run once we moved to AAA. Check out the head to head record, Miller Grove’s first win against us was the season before last 66-64 at Miller Grove.

Joey

January 23rd, 2013
12:45 pm

@Decatur Hey, how long has MG been open? How long has Columbia been open? just be glad that it’s 2 Dekalb Schools they’re talking about. Columbia actually elected to stay down according to their football coaches

Jeff Haws

January 23rd, 2013
1:01 pm

Decatur 4 Life – Yeah, I was covering that Columbia-Tucker final, so I remember that now that you mention it. Columbia still had Jeremy Price and Travis Leslie, while Marshon Brooks was the star at Tucker, along with Jeremy Simmons and Manny Atkins. Columbia was a pretty heavy favorite going into the game, riding something like a 50-game winning streak, as I recall. People thought Tucker missed its shot when Cameron Tatum left, but the next bunch ended up getting it done.

Decatur 4 Life

January 23rd, 2013
1:12 pm

Right, we had a dismal shooting night! Lance Storrs couldn’t hit a shot for us and Manny Atkins stole the show, that was Manny’s coming out party that year. Cameron Tatum’s group at Tucker lost to Douglas County in the semifinals the year of our first title in 2006

Decatur 4 Life

January 23rd, 2013
1:29 pm

Joey

Hey I’m very excited about both Dekalb schools being spotlighted, heck I’m a Dekalb product myself so no hating here. Just stating the facts sir, nowhere in my post did I say MG doesn’t deserve the attention and credit. Don’t quite know what our coach’s decision to play down in AAA has to do with my post but it wasn’t just the football coaches that wanted to play down, try all of them except basketball. Our head to head record w/ MG has nothing to do with how long a school’s been open or anything like that, that’s what my earlier comment was about.

Jeff Haws

January 23rd, 2013
1:34 pm

D4L – Think Columbia gets its 4th straight this year? Some elite company awaits if they can do it. And if Miller Grove can hit 5, that’s immortality there. They’d be the first.

Hubert Green

January 23rd, 2013
1:49 pm

Milton’s four year stretch of playing in four state championships in the largest classification is not a bad run, with two state titles. Wheeler also had a great run in the 2000’s. The competition with the big boys has been better than with the smaller classifications over the past ten years.

Northside Dawg

January 23rd, 2013
2:01 pm

Wow, no Southwest Macon.

Hubert Green

January 23rd, 2013
2:04 pm

Let me also add that Milton was 1-1 against Miller Grove during their regular season match-ups and 1-0 against Columbia. And Milton won two national tournaments and beat Oak Hill during that stretch. I know Miller Grove won the Beach Ball, but really struggled in the City of Palms. Not taking anything away from Columbia nor Miller Grove, but when you look at Norcross, Wheeler, Savannah, Westlake, Milton, Centennial during the Lo Brown era, Walton during the Ryan Harrow era, Tift Co., getting to the finals four years in a row was pretty good. Give Norcross credit for keeping it 2 out of 3 instead of three in a row state championships.

Old Coach

January 23rd, 2013
2:07 pm

Where is Decatur and Campbell of Smyrna?

Jeff Haws

January 23rd, 2013
2:30 pm

Hubert – Yep. Milton had some nice teams there for a few years. Dunwoody had a pretty solid little run there in the mid ’00s too, just a few years before Milton’s.

Northside Dawg – Gotta win it all to be a dynasty, not just come close. And SW Macon never won 3 in a row that they needed to qualify against this group. You can blame the ‘77 LaGrange boys for keeping SW Macon out.

Old Coach – Not sure which Decatur or Campbell teams you would want to see here. Neither ever won 2 in a row, much less 3 or 4. Decatur had some nice teams in the early 80s, but nothing approaching a Dynasty, just 2 out of 3 in 1980 and 82. As far as I know, Campbell’s only won one title, in 1982, after Baldwin annihilated them in the finals by about 40 the year before. They did have a really nice team in ‘82, though. Incidentally, that was the first of 6 titles for David Boyd, who was recently booted from Milton for alleged recruiting violations.

HOOPDIJOUR

January 23rd, 2013
2:56 pm

@Hubert I can distinctly remember MG whooping Milton when they were #1 in the country at the time and the same year Milton losing in the Championship to Norcross after leading the whole game. If you look at the schedules of Columbia and MG you can see that they always play “up” and do a great job at that (i.e. Milton, Norcross, Westlake, etc.). Milton had nice teams but nothing that even measures up to the runs of MG and Columbia. Sounds like Boyd!!!

Al Beeski

January 23rd, 2013
3:24 pm

Westover also won titles in ‘98 & ‘01 giving them 6 in an eleven year stretch, which is much more impressive than MG. Lanier, c’mon let’s be realistic, comparing teams from 20’s to today is impossible. I think Westover should be #1, sorry Jeff.

Hubert Green

January 23rd, 2013
3:26 pm

Savannah and SW Macon traded state titles almost every other year in the 70’s. Gainesville had a nice run in the 80’s with a runner-up and two state titles. College Park was on the verge of winning four in a row but lost on a last second 1 point type game. Rusty Hudson had some great teams in the early to mid 80’s at Lakeshore. East Hall had a great team in the early to late 2000’s.. Loved those Monk Jones Carver teams. Out of all the “dynasties, in my opinion, the best was Westover’s four year run. They crushed teams like a grape. And during that time the competition in Albany was the best anywhere in the country; bar none: Monroe; Doughtery, Albany were LOADED. Some of the teams you’ve listed had very limited competition in state tournament play.

Max Sizemore

January 23rd, 2013
3:30 pm

Donald Richardson had some seriously good teams at Southwest Macon in the 70s. The one with Fair, Hunt, and Malone was possibly the best ever.

Jeff Haws

January 23rd, 2013
3:34 pm

Al Beeski – Hey, no need to be sorry. Disagreement is part of it. You make a solid case for Westover. Problem is, I simply can’t justify including ‘98 and ‘01 in this, because it’s so far removed from ‘93. You’re talking more than a complete class of players removed from their previous title. By the way I’m looking at it, if there’s more than a couple of years of gap there, it starts being a completely new situation, and it doesn’t count toward the Dynasty status of the previous winners. However, that doesn’t mean reasonable minds can’t disagree on that. Six in 11 years does sound like a heck of a run, no question about it.

As far as Lanier goes, I definitely agree you can’t compare the 20s to today, but you can’t ignore 16 titles and 6 finals appearances over a 30-year span, regardless of when it was. That was a Dynasty, however you slice it. The only reason it’s No. 2 instead of No. 1 is that it all happened so long ago, and the level of competition just wasn’t remotely as great as it is now. There’s no comparison there. I think there’s a better argument for Westover at No. 2 than at No. 1, myself. You could make a case that their 4 in the early 90s was more impressive than Lanier’s, but I had to give Lanier the nod for longevity.

Thanks for the comment.

Al Beeski

January 23rd, 2013
3:42 pm

Thanks, Jeff, since you bring up Finals appearances, Westover had 6 titles, 2 runner-ups (’88 & ‘96) in 13 years, if you want more longevity which is more than MG. Your argument basically says that Lanier should be #1 & Westover #2 because they both sustained runs throughout player turnover. Simply put, great minds can disagree, but no way MG should be # 1 if you put longevity for Lanier being ahead of Westover.

Jeff Haws

January 23rd, 2013
3:59 pm

Al Beeski – Well, again, I only put longevity ahead if the Dynasty continues. If there’s a 5-year break, I consider it having ended. And I’m really only counting titles as part of it, since you’re not reigning over the Kingdom anymore if you’ve been knocked off. The finals appearances for Lanier are just a nice little throw-in after you consider their 16 titles during that time. We’ll see if MG can extend its streak this year too, though of course that’s still completely up in the air.

Hubert Green

January 23rd, 2013
4:05 pm

@Jeff and @Al; just to show how good those Westover teams were, the 92 and 93 teams both participated in the Superstars team camps that included about 60 high school teams; many which were outstanding. Westover played a Team #1 and a Team #2 in the camp almost each year. In the summer of 92, Westover Team #1 played Westover Team #2 for the camp championship. If you wonder how good this camp was, every year almost all the division state champions participated; BTW Jeff, I really enjoy these top 10 lists.

vrica1

January 24th, 2013
7:46 am

If you look at school size for the run Lanier of Macon had and consider the fact that they were an all boys school , it would seem they had an obvious advantage in the number of athletes to choose from. If I remember correctly, they were the only white (segregation days) boys high school in Macon. It doesn`t take anything away from a remarkable run other than more to choose from which would seem to be somewhat of an advantage.

Decatur 4 Life

January 24th, 2013
10:21 am

Jeff Haws

To answer your question I think we can win state again this season but its going to be by far the toughest year to do so, mainly because we’re so strong at the guard positions and hurting for some production down low this year. That combined with the fact that we have no size like years past its going to be a tough road, the bigs we got play extremely hard though and have plenty energy thats helped them against bigger teams. Bad shooting nights makes us very vulnerable which has happen a few times already this season.