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Herb Horton
by Robbie Bills

After nearly a quarter of a century as the Gilmer Lady Cats’ Head Basketball Coach, Herb Horton stepped down last Thursday, Feb. 28.

In a written statement addressed to “Gilmer Lady Cats’ basketball team supporters,” Horton cited his reason for leaving. 

“It has been a blessing, an honor and a privilege to have been your coach. For 24 years I have devoted much time and energy into the Lady Cats basketball program and its players. I can truly say that I put my heart into this team and this program. 

“I now feel that I need to devote more time and energy to my family, especially into the lives of my two daughters (Sydney and Hayley). It’s time that they get more of my heart as well. So, with much thought and prayer I feel that I should step down as the Gilmer Lady Cats Basketball Coach. My time as your coach will always be special to me. May God always bless each of you and your families.”

When asked if anything occurred to affect his decision since the end of the season, Horton declined to comment but said resigning was the “toughest decision of his professional career.”

He added, “I’ve been in education for 36 years and obviously anyone who’s done something for that long, you enjoy it and you feel like it’s your calling. I’ve devoted my professional life to kids and helping kids. Anytime you come to a point and decide to walk away from something like that, it’s a big decision.”

In regard to Horton’s resignation, GHS Athletic Director Mike Putman said, “We would like to thank Coach Horton for his 24 years of leadership in our Lady Cat basketball program. His dedication and commitment to our sports program has been much appreciated.”

Of his 36 years in education, 25 have been spent at GHS. His first stint at Gilmer lasted 17 years, which included 16 seasons coaching and 15 as the Lady Cats’ head coach. From 1978-1979 through the 1992-1993 seasons, Horton led GHS to a 259-123 record.

Since returning for eight more seasons, which began in 2005-2006, the Cats have posted a record of 109-104. His career record at Gilmer is 368-227.

He pointed to the Lady Cats’ final four appearance in 1992 as one of his fondest memories.

“Going to the final four with the 91-92 team, that was a very special run. That team made a sincere run and had a chance to win it all. But, it’s not just that. There have been a lot of special times, but that one is near the top,” Horton said.

Under Horton’s guidance, the Lady Cats set 18 combined team and seasonal records. On eight occasions, his players were selected to all-state teams and nine more were named honorable mention.

Horton led eight teams to the state playoffs and 22 of his former Lady Cats received scholarships to play basketball in college.

When he returned to GHS in 2005, Horton established the Lady Cat Alumni Scholarship. Since then, former players have received scholarship funds on 60 occasions to continue their college education. 

Horton noted that off-the-court development has always been a focus.

“Being a high school coach, you deal with kids who are 14-18 years old. At that point of their life you try to do everything you can to help them along the way. You realize you have a four-year window of time where you have a chance to influence and help them. Every kid is different and over the years I’ve just tried to help every kid in any way I could. For me, it’s much more about off the court than it is about on the court, and it always has been.”

Horton said he is unsure whether he will continue to teach at GHS.  

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