Counting down Southwest Georgia's Top 10 sports stories of 2013 -- No. 10: Coaching icons announce retirements

Rob Williams, left, and Tommy Manry both retired after legendary coaching careers.

Rob Williams, left, and Tommy Manry both retired after legendary coaching careers.

It was the end of an era for two Southwest Georgia coaches in 2013. After 25 seasons of coaching baseball at Lee County High School, Rob Williams announced his retirement in May.

Meanwhile, Southwest Georgia softball/baseball coach Tommy Manry also announced he would be stepping away in October.

They are two local icons who were synonymous with their athletic programs. When you thought of Lee County baseball, Williams came to mind.

And when you thought of bats and balls at Southwest Georgia Academy, Manry’s name came up.

Williams, who spent his entire head coaching career with the Trojans, came to Lee County 27 years ago after eight years as an assistant at Colquitt County, then he spent four years as an assistant with the Trojans before finally taking over in 1989.

Williams compiled a career record of 529-205. He said his decision to walk away from baseball was one of the toughest calls he’s ever had to make.

“It was not a quick decision, but I think I pretty much knew coming into the season this was going to be my last year. And at the end of the year, I really thought long and hard about it,” he said. “Ultimately, what it came down to was it just being the right time. These kids deserve someone who has the energy to keep up with them. And I just didn’t feel I could (meet those standards).”

Lee reached the state playoffs 21 of the 25 years Williams was head coach, playing in 15 quarterfinal rounds and four in the state semifinals. His teams made two appearances in the state championship series (1991 and 2005), finishing as the state runner-up both times.

The Trojans lost to Henry County in the best-of-three series in 2005, falling in the decisive third game. One of his prized pupils on that team was former Florida State standout and current San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. The Trojans were so close but didn’t finish to the Jason Heyward-led Warhawks.

“That was one of my greatest memories with coach Williams, that state championship series my senior year,” Posey, the 2012 NL MVP, told The Herald back in May. “I sure wish we could’ve got that one for him, but it was still a memorable season.”

Williams left the baseball diamond, however, he still continues to serve as Lee County’s athletic director.

Manry called it quits after his Lady Warrior softball team fell in the GISA quarterfinals of the state softball tournament after starting the season 20-0 for the first time in school history.

After the Lady Warriors were swept by Westfield and Tattnall Square, Manry told the team that he had just coached his last game. The longtime coach will be 66 next March and has been coaching softball for 29 seasons.

“I didn’t want to tell the girls that and put all kinds of pressure on them,” he told The Herald after the game. “I can still throw 500 pitches a day and carry on practices like I did when I was 25. I want to go out while I still feel like that.”

Manry was no stranger to success. He had successful runs at Calhoun County coaching softball and baseball before coming to SGA. He guided the Lady Cougars to the Georgia High School Association Class A slow pitch state title in 1982.

He was known for his coaching skills as well as his father-like abilities. His players loved him.

“He always tells us that we’re the reason he wakes up every morning so he can coach softball,” softball standout Baylee Everson said during the team’s state tournament run this fall. “He’s very close to us.”

Manry had more cliches and proverbs than he did anything else.

Everson recalled a story he told the softball team this past season during their 20-0 start.

“He’s told us a story about the geese flying together,” she said. “When they’re not all flying together, they’re not going to get to where they’re supposed to go. It’s the same way with our team. If we’re not playing together, we’re not going to get where we’re supposed to go.”

Williams and Manry will be missed for more than their coaching abilities. They were truly legends in Southwest Georgia, which is what makes this The Herald’s No. 10 sports story of 2013.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Herald’s sports staff has chosen, in our eyes, Southwest Georgia’s Top 10 sports stories from 2013. Today marks the first of the 10 we’ve picked as having a significant impact as we count down to No. 1, which will appear in the Jan. 1 addition. Look for No. 9 in Tuesday’s Herald.