Jarhon Giddings’ Time Is Fast Approaching


Jarhon Giddings, meet Gene Bartow.

For those who aren’t old enough to remember, Gene Bartow was the highly-respected coach from the University of Illinois who succeeded the great John Wooden when the latter stepped down as the UCLA basketball coach after winning his 10th NCAA championship in 12 years. The year was 1975. Bartow lasted two years at UCLA. Tough succeeding a legend.

Well, Giddings now get’s the same kind of chance succeeding a legend, John Walsh, as the Danvers High boys’ basketball coach. Giddings up close and personally what made Walsh the greatest state championship-winning coach in Danvers High history.

Three state championships in four years, five Northeastern Conference titles in a row and an astounding six-year overall record of 123-24.

“I’m excited and I’m ready to get started,” Giddings, 30, said as he final days of October passed and he looked ahead to the first day of practice on Monday, November 28.

Giddings, who grew up in Blacksburg, Virginia, has taken a fascinating route to arrive in this position after serving as one of Walsh’s varsity assistants the last three years.

After an illustrious high school (Blacksburg High, R.J. Reynolds High) and college career (at University of Richmond), the 6-9 Giddings played professionally in Cyprus, Bahrain, Israel and Rochester, N.Y. (Premiere League).

He also worked several summers at basketball camps at Wake Forest and Richmond, as well as in the basketball departments at professional gyms in the same region.

Landing in Danvers with wife Hannah, his college sweetheart, three years ago, the 6-feet, 9-inch Giddings walked one day into Danvers High School soon thereafter, asked principal/asst. supt. Sue Ambrozavitch if he could meet the boys’ basketball coach. Ambrozavitch called Walsh on the spot and the next thing he knew Walsh boasted the tallest assistant coach in Eastern Massachusetts; as well as one of the most astute hoop aides in the NEC.

“I couldn’t pass up Jay’s terrific background as a player and his potential as a coach,” Walsh told this observer on more than one occasion.

On more than one occasion, Walsh also asked Giddings if he had any head coach aspirations. “I told John every time that I would love to be a head coach – anywhere. But I needed to get some experience under my belt first. And I got the very best experience watching and working with the best the last three years.

“Then, when John confided in me that last season was going to be his last as head coach, and I said I would be very interested in applying for the position, he advocated for me in the hiring process.”

That was like getting the ultimate blessing from the divine being of DHS hoops.

Now in his third year as the high school’s academic intervention specialist (i.e. the provider of assistance in helping students who fail classes to get back on track and gain credits so they can graduate, hopefully on time), Giddings is ready to take the reins and follow a legend.

“Most important,” says Giddings, who still plays ball competitively in a few North Shore YMCA and other men’s leagues, “I want my players to get better as players and young men as our season progresses. I want them to use their basketball experiences to also learn life lessons for whatever they face down the road. The wins and losses always take care of themselves, but growing as persons is a little different. As in other sports, a lot of relevant lessons came from playing basketball, especially at the high school level, that can be used in other phases of their life, no matter what their age.”

In succeeding the most successful six-year varsity cage coach in Massachusetts high school basketball history, Giddings “welcomes the challenge,” as he says, “and I want to continue what John has built with our winning tradition and outstanding coaching. It’s still amazing to think about how hard John worked, how much he put into the team on practice and game days.

“As a coach, I want the players to be good teammates, to remain coachable and to give it all they have every time we’re together as a team, whether it’s for practice, scrimmages or games. I want them to hold nothing back, to take everything about being a Danvers High basketball player seriously and to remember they’re representing their school, their town, their family and themselves. And I’ll be telling them a lot of time what my father told me: ‘you only get out of your effort what you put into it.’”

Giddings will follow Walsh’s credo in that “defense will be the centerpiece of everything we do; the defense will spark our offense.”

He does not consider himself on any kind of hotseat. “No reason to be,” he explained. “This is a new chapter. Everyone’s been supportive. Everyone knows this is a new man taking over. They also understand that wins will come if we do things right and the kids keep the right attitude as players and students. For me, it’s all about developing players from the youth level up and keeping them hungry to succeed at every level on which they compete for Danvers.”

Giddings, whose first name comes from the proper name of God in the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh, has his staff in place. Matt McQuaid will serve as his junior varsity and assistant varsity coach, while Peter Speros returns as freshman coach.

Let the Giddings Era begin.
















This entry was posted in Gary. Bookmark the permalink.