At 78 years old, 50-year high school coaching veteran Ron Bradley was just inducted into his seventh hall of fame.
While those numbers are impressive, they are by no means tiring for the Newton County coaching icon. When asked about his latest honor in a long line of honors — being named to the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame — Bradley proceeded to discuss, reminisce and reflect for more than half an hour with the excitement in his voice never fading.
In the time he developed a career as one of the most winningest high school basketball coaches in the country, mainly at Newton High School, he put together memories enough to fill hundreds of hall of fame speeches, something he looks forward to giving at every event he is invited to. However, when he has been inducted into hall of fames, including the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame Saturday, Bradley has been limited in the amount of time he gets in front of a microphone.
Such was the case Saturday.
Originally told he would have 10 minutes to thank the crowd, his speaking time was then whittled down to seven before eventually settling at five. That was not enough time to reflect, not only on 1,019 boys’ basketball wins, 129 coming consecutively at home for a national record; two national basketball coach of the year awards; 75 varsity basketball championships; and various other accolades, but also the thousands of lives he has touched and been a part of.
Bradley has so many memories and the thoughts on the people who have been a big part of his career, he never knows where to go with his speeches, and is always eager to start his trips down memory lane.
“I told my wife I was anxious to hear what I had to say,” Bradley said of his most recent hall of fame speech. “In just a few minutes, you can’t even touch a portion of your career.
After thanking several people, including those who helped get him into the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame and his wife Jan, Bradley made sure to share what has been a big part of his career and kept him coaching and involved in the lives of youth for much of his career.
Early in his career, Jan had asked him why he was spending so much time with other peoples’ children helping them practice basketball, rather than with his own children. Two days later, the player he was helping prepare for an All-Star basketball game, Billy Dean, drowned near Factory Shoals. That went on to impact the rest of his career, one that has brought him into the National High School Hall of Fame, Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, Georgia Independent School Hall of Fame and Newton County Bulldog Club Hall of Fame.
“I knew people were giving up something, the most valuable thing they had, to be with our program — their time,” Bradley said.
Each of the halls of fame are special to Bradley, both in being a member and annually getting to be a part of their induction ceremonies. Saturday, he was inducted with NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, Atlanta Crackers Owner and manager Earl Mann, Olympic gold medal swimmer Steve Lundquist and former Georgia Tech Athletic Director Dr. Homer Rice, getting to talk and spend time with each of the living inductees or kin from those who have passed.
He enjoyed meeting with Mann’s widow, legendary golfer Bobby Jones’ wife and Sanders.
“One of the real personal benefits is it gives you a chance to be around people you’ve heard about, read about or seen on television,” Bradley said. “Who in the world ever would have thought I would get near Deion Sanders, and I got the chance to talk to him, get an autograph and a picture with him.”
Sanders, known for his flamboyant style as “Primetime” and his unique fashion sense, even
commented on Bradley’s attire of a tuxedo.
“He said to me, he was embarrassed because I out-dressed him,” Bradley said. “He said, ‘I’ll tell you one thing, you’ll never out-dress me again.’”
Bradley also gets to meet coaches and athletes he’s competed with or against along the way to his hall of fame legacy at many of his annual induction visits, something he will continue to do for as long as he can.
The opportunity to continue learning, meeting his favorite athletes, and sharing his favorite stories is a golden one for Bradley.
“They never get old,” Bradley said.
“The recognition is nice, especially when you know you’re representing thousands of people.”