It had been a while since coach Bolling DuBose had worn anything resembling Commerce colors.
“The last time I had black and gold on was at Wake Forest,” quipped DuBose, who played college basketball for the Demon Deacons nearly 50 years ago.
Now, the longtime former Jefferson basketball coach, who won 661 games with the Dragons, wears it nightly as an assistant girls’ coach at rival Commerce.
DuBose, who spent 41 years as Jefferson’s boys’ coach (one of the state’s longest tenures ever at one school), is now a part of Commerce girls’ coach Brad Puckett’s staff this season.
Puckett (also a former Jefferson coach) pitched the idea to DuBose back during the fall when he invited his longtime friend over one Saturday to watch football.
“I didn’t know he had an ulterior motive,” DuBose joked about joining Puckett that day.
Puckett, needing additional coaching help, offered DuBose a spot on his staff, with DuBose basically being free to name his schedule.
“He just brought it up,” DuBose said. “He said I would love for you to come help me.”
And DuBose agreed to the offer.
Puckett was unsure if DuBose, whom he worked with for 15 years at Jefferson, would do so. DuBose, who left Jefferson in 2017 and coached one season (2017-18) at Monroe Area, had been away from the game for a year. He also has five grandchildren.
“When I asked him, in the back of my mind I was thinking … ‘There’s no way in the world he’s going to do this, but I thought, you know, I’ve got to try,’” Puckett said.
Though Puckett never coached under DuBose at Jefferson (Puckett was a girls’ basketball assistant), he considered him a mentor and closely studied his coaching style, often staying late to watch his practices. Puckett eagerly wanted to bring DuBose aboard at Commerce.
“The man knows basketball,” Puckett said. “He’s forgotten more basketball than I’ll ever know and a lot of people will ever know.”
With 678 career coaching wins and four decades of experience, DuBose has helped the Commerce girls off to a 12-9 start. The 70-year-old, who underwent knee surgery last year, said he feels rejuvenated being court side again.
“Now that I’ve been back this year, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s like my enthusiasm and energy that I had is back,” DuBose said.
Though Commerce and Jefferson no longer play each other, DuBose working as a Tiger coach after spending four decades at a rival school has been the subject of some good-natured humor.
“When we put a Commerce basketball shirt on him, I couldn’t wait for a photo opp with he and I,” Puckett said.
One fan even joked with DuBose that he told someone he “didn’t think he’d live long enough to see hell freeze over” upon seeing DuBose as a Tiger.
DuBose expressed his gratitude to Commerce for the opportunity to return to the court. Though his position has no teaching duties, he still had to be approved by the school board.
“I appreciate them giving me the chance,” he said.
Puckett said DuBose now is viewed as “part of the family.”
“He’s part of the Commerce family, and we couldn’t be happier,” he said.
It’s been a while since DuBose has been an assistant coach.
He spent 46 years as a head coach between stints at Cedar Shoals, Jefferson and Monroe Area. But DuBose said he doesn’t miss the administrative duties that come with running a program.
“It’s really been nice not having all the extra duties,” he said. “What’s really been enjoyable to me is to be able to coach and spend time with my kids and grandkids. It’s the best of both worlds.”
But the passion, drive and desire to see the players succeed is the same.
While DuBose was given the freedom to pick which days he’d work with the team, he’s there daily.
“I have a hard time doing something halfway,” he said.
His new position has allowed him to cross paths again with former Tiger coaches such as Rex Gregg, whom he coached against for 25 years. Gregg is a frequent attendee at Commerce basketball games because his son, Russ, now coaches the boys’ team. DuBose remembers the competition between he and Rex and the respect that grew between them as the years passed.
“I get to catch up with Rex,” DuBose said. “It’s good to see him. The people of Commerce, they’ve just been as nice as they can be.”
DuBose also said that Commerce reminds him of what Jefferson was like “before we exploded” with growth and higher enrollment numbers.
As for Jefferson, DuBose said he still follows the Dragons, with whom he won 12 region titles. They are in their third year under DuBose’s successor, Kevin Morris.
“Kevin has done such a great job,” DuBose said. “I was glad he got the job when I left.”
Meanwhile, Commerce is appreciative of DuBose’s efforts in his new role.
Puckett said that DuBose has been “incredibly valuable” to the girls’ team, from the installation of the offensive schemes to advice on situational basketball to working with players each day.
“The girls have gotten to know him really well,” Puckett said. “He’s helped make all of them better as individuals with their individual skills, he’s helped to develop those a little bit more.”
Said DuBose: “I tell Brad all the time, tell me to shut up if I’m talking too much … It’s been fun for me.”
As for the future, DuBose still has interest in serving as a head coach somewhere. But for right now, he’s having fun right where he’s at.
“I don’t know that I’ll get another job as far as being a head coach,” DuBose said. “But I’m really happy with what I’m doing.”
And Puckett, who said he’s “having a blast” coaching with one of his best friends, hopes to continue to have him court side.
“You never know what life is going to bring,” he said. “I know somewhere down the line he would still love to be a head coach somewhere again. That opportunity may open up somewhere, but if it doesn’t, I sure hope he’s back with us, for sure.”