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‘The Old Coach’

July 19, 2023 - 00:00
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This week’s interview isn’t an unfamiliar face to anyone who has spent any time around town in the past year or so. Bobby Gentry, “The Old Coach”, is all over Navasota. I have actually spoken, hugged, and laughed with him more times than I can count, but I had never sat him down to get “his story”. Needless to say, I was excited to chat with him over a Dr. Pepper at Carroll’s for a few minutes, which turned into nearly two hours and could have easily led to days, weeks, months and years! (No surprise to anyone who knows him) If one didn’t know better - they would think he’s the Mayor of Navasota with as much as he gets around town! (Look out Bert!)

The seventy-five-year-old Gentry was raised in Stamps, Arkansas, which is semi-famous thanks to Maya Angelou having lived there. The oldest of seven sons, he says he and his siblings grew up poor, yet have all had much success in life. When describing each brother, he beamed with pride.

Coach Gentry taught and coached high school and college in both Arkansas and Texas. Being a history teacher, the favorite place he’s traveled to is the Washington D.C. area. He dreams of visiting upper New England in the fall to get a tour of the beautiful foliage during that time of year. His dream place to be is right here in Navasota, Texas!

Why Navasota? He says, “luck, fate, accident.” He looked into moving to several other towns but chose Navasota because it’s between two of his children. The father of two daughters and a son beamed with pride once again as he described his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and their careers, success, and education.

I was proud to hear how much he loves my hometown. Although he’s traveled and lived in several places over the years, he is super content living here, which makes my heart burst with pride! Coach Gentry considers Navasota “the rising star of Texas” and anticipates it exploding with growth in a short time. His favorite thing about Navasota is its unlimited potential and he hopes to be here the rest of his time on earth.

A few of his lessons on life that stuck with me during our conversation are: It’s not about the wins and losses, but personal relationships you make. He’s turned down jobs he should have taken and taken jobs he should have turned down, but he’s met great people and had tremendous experiences along the way. He feels athletics are the equalizer, where you learn to work as a team and learn life skills. He wants to be remembered as someone who was honest, compassionate, caring, and open-minded. He feels we, as humans, have more likenesses than differences, but sadly we tend to focus on the differences and negatives.

Some interesting facts I enjoyed learning about him are his dream job is being a kindergarten teacher, if given a ticket on the next space shuttle he would decline because he’s afraid of heights, his heroes are his mom and Roger Staubach, he’s most proud of the thousands of students he’s taught and coached over the years, many from other countries. He says, “that’s not too bad for a redneck from South Arkansas!”

I was happy to find out that he’s done some subbing for Navasota ISD. When he’s not subbing, he enjoys visiting with neighbor Johnny LeFlore and also playing golf at Pecan Lakes Golf Club where he is the Marshall. Big John is his favorite person in Navasota. (One of mine as well!)

If he was able to trade places with anyone for a month, he would choose Dan Patrick so he could get rid of state testing and give more money to police and teachers. He chuckled as he also said Jimbo Fisher, but that’s a story you can ask him about in person!

As I listened to his stories and asked him my questions, I found myself feeling as if I was watching an ESPN documentary. The Old Coach is very intelligent and offers a wealth of wisdom on life that we all could stand to learn from. He has a great sense of humor, quick wit, handsome smile and gift of gab.

Coach Gentry - although you weren’t one of my very own teachers/coaches, you have definitely had an influence on my life. I am so glad our paths crossed, and I can’t wait to see you around town, my Navasota Neighbor!

The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Jennifer Ramirez. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.

Jennifer is a lifelong resident of Navasota. She is passionate about her community and supports all things local.