“Did Max Clendenen hire you?” I asked Ken Sparks when I wrote a column about the legendary Carson-Newman football coach last year.
“Max Clendenen and Bob Dagley,” Coach Sparks answered. Max Clendenen was the Principal at Gibbs High School and Bob Dagley, the Assistant Principal, when Ken Sparks was hired in 1968. I remembered Bob Dagley, though I had almost forgotten he was an Assistant Principal at our school. The mention of his name brings to mind “basketball” and one special season in particular during the 1964-65 school year. I called Bob Dagley.
“It was Mr. Clendenen’s idea,” Dagley told me in the calm, controlled voice I remembered. Gibbs had been without a football program for many years, and the late Max Clendenen wanted to start one. No one wanted the job until they found a young Ken Sparks.
Robert (Bob) Dagley’s young life was an education in itself. Hearing him tell about growing up is like living a lesson in history. His father worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority during the construction of Norris, Chicamauga, Watts Bar, and Fontana Dams. With no housing available at Fontana, Dagley’s father bought the last house trailer in Knoxville and towed it to the area. The family left Fontana in 1945.
Bob graduated from Karns High School and would later begin his career there. He graduated from Carson-Newman College, where he met his future wife, Janet Harris. The two teachers were wed in July of 1961. By October, Dagley was in Germany serving in the Air National Guard which was activated to regular Air Force during the time Germany was building the Berlin Wall. Afterwards, Dagley earned his Master’s degree from The University of Tennessee. In 1963, he came to Gibbs to teach physical education and coach the boy’s varsity basketball team.
Gibbs was the smallest school in the county with 412 students. There was no classification by enrollment, so the little school of 412 played with the big schools that had 2,000 or more students. The tall, dark-haired Dagley almost seemed too soft spoken to fill the role of coach; but, the chemistry of the players and coach would prove to be a winning combination. Our small community had no idea what lay in store with Coach Dagley at the helm.
(This is the first in a series of columns about Coach Dagley and the Gibbs Eagles’ amazing journey during the 1964-65 basketball season.)