Q&A with Coach David Gentry ’70

David Gentry '70 became the all-time winningest high school football coach in North Carolina before retiring in June.

Considered a legend in the North Carolina high school football coaching community, David Gentry ’70 never set out to stand out. For almost 40 years, the former Elon football player coached the Murphy High School Bulldogs, always focused on taking it one game at a time. Along the way, he led his team to nine state championship wins and became the all-time winningest high school coach in the state before retiring in June. While those accomplishments have meant a lot, he is most proud of the memories his players will have for the rest of their lives.

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What made you want to transition from being an athlete to coaching? 

Coach Red Wilson gave me the opportunity to be an undergraduate assistant and coach the freshman football team at Elon, which included handling all the scouting duties. This helped solidify my choice to become a head coach.

Did your experience as an Elon football player impact your coaching style?

Yes. While playing under Coach George Tucker and winning the Carolina Conference my freshman year, he seemed to always get the most out of his players. I knew I felt the same passion for winning.

What did it feel like to be inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame?

When I began coaching, I never focused on breaking records or receiving any honors; I was just wanting to win the next game in front of me. So receiving this national recognition after all of those hard-fought years was definitely one of the biggest highlights in my career.

You are also the winningest high school football coach in North Carolina history with 413 wins. How did you lead your teams to this momentous achievement?

Both of these achievements were possible by surrounding myself with great assistant coaches and very dedicated players. Breaking the record was extra special for not only myself but also my staff, players, school and community because it was against our bigger rival, Swain County, on their home turf.

What inspired you to continue coaching for so long?

Before retiring this year, my biggest inspiration was being able to work with my players on a daily basis in hopes of impacting their lives in a positive way on and off the playing field.

How has coaching shaped you as a person?

Coaching has taught me to be a leader and a team player. Football is a team sport and coaching has taught me to look at the big picture, which is to always look for what is in the best interest of all included, not just the individual.