By Mark Brock
DCSD Athletics Specialists
Former Redan Raider state championship coach Marvin Pruitt passed away over the weekend after a hard fought battle against several medical ailments.
The winningest DeKalb County baseball coach in history at 447-252-3 in stops at Lakeside, Stephenson, Southwest DeKalb and Redan high schools fought like he expected his players to play and in his usual quiet way with that big smile most people remembered after meeting him. A stint coaching at Rockdale County in the late 80’s helped add up to a career record of 510-333-6.
He coached the Raiders to 13 playoff appearances in 14 seasons at the school including the 2013 Class 4A state championship in which he had to sit out a good portion of the season due to his health. He also coached Redan to Final four appearances in 2003 and 2010.
Pruitt joined the Lakeside baseball staff in 1978 as an assistant junior varsity coach and coached under Mike Trapani from 1980-1982 before taking over as head coach in 1983.
“One of the things I remember most about Coach Pruitt was that he was the kindest gentleman in the coaching profession I ever met,” said Trapani. “He was the most positive coach and inspired the kids. He was always wanting to learn how to be a better coach and how to work with the kids. He was just the kind of person you wanted your son to play for expecting hard work and discipline. He was also a great teacher in the classroom.”
Lakeside was his first head coaching job (1983-86). His first squad in 1983 won their region to make the state playoffs and reached the state semifinals. It was Lakeside’s first ever state playoff appearance and only Final Four trip.
Former Avondale and Lakeside head baseball coach Bill Newsome was part of Pruitt’s first team and remembers the time and his mentor fondly.
“Coach was an ambassador for DeKalb baseball; even though he was a quiet person everyone listened when he talked and respected what he had to say,” said Newsome. “I remember that first playoff win against North Cobb so well. We lost the first game and Coach Pruitt got us back to Lakeside and made us take batting practice in the dark. We run-ruled North Cobb in the second game and then won 3-2 in the third game by throwing out the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the last inning.”
“I can remember Coach sitting in our living room talking. He was so soft spoken and always a gentleman and classy,” continued Newsome. “I learned a lot from him as a player and as a coach playing against him on what to do and handle people. But don’t ever think he wasn’t a competitor despite his quietness. He wanted to win and was not happy when things went badly for his team.”
DeKalb County Schools Athletics Specialist and Baseball Coordinator Chris Chilton played for and worked with Pruitt for 37 years plus since an eighth grade junior varsity player at Lakeside in DeKalb.
“The thing I remember most about Coach Pruitt was his smile,” said Chilton. “I remember the first time I saw him was walking up the stairs in school and he was coming down with that big ole smile on his face. He coached me in junior varsity for two years and three years afterwards. There were very few people who could ever say much bad about Coach Pruitt and I can’t say that for most people.”
Former Columbia head baseball coach Steve Dennis, who retired with over 300 career wins himself, played against Pruitt’s first Lakeside club as a standout at Briarcliff High School.
“Coach Pruitt was my mentor and I enjoyed getting to coach against him over the years,” said Dennis. “He always found a way to take advantage of my youth in coaching to get the upper hand. He was a competitor and always got the best out of his players no matter where he was coaching.”
Dennis said Pruitt will leave a big hole in the coaching community with his passing.
“He is going to be very much missed by those in the coaching community with his knowledge and teaching of the game of baseball,” said Dennis. “He is someone the younger generation may never have known, but if they can live up to his legacy they will have done very well.”
Pruitt took over the Redan baseball program in 2001 from Greg Goodwin who would later become his principal at Redan.
“I could talk about Marvin forever,” said Goodwin whose career victories record at Redan Pruitt would go on to break. “He was a legendary coach, but an even better man. Everyone you talk to about him always said what a great person he was.”
Goodwin was a baseball foe and friend for over 30 years and he along with Pruitt, 300-game winner Steve Dennis (Columbia), Dion Williams and Ron Elgin started the DeKalb Dugout Club which still honors DeKalb players and coaches for their accomplishments each season. He was around for many of Pruitt’s milestone’s such as his 500th career win, the state championship and being named to the Georgia Dugout Club Hall of Fame, of which Goodwin is also a member.
“Funny thing is, one of things he was proudest of was breaking my win record and taking my title at Redan,” said Goodwin. “We talked baseball all the time and talked about baseball up until last week before he passed away.”
Pruitt had 13 20-win seasons during his career in DeKalb, 11 at Redan. He had just three losing seasons in DeKalb with those all coming at Stephenson where he started the program in 1997 through 1999.
His 500th career victory came on April 1, 2014 as his Raiders defeated Banneker 14-0 on the way to a 22-win season and playoff appearance in Pruitt’s final season in the dugout.
The celebration of life services for Marvin Pruitt will be Saturday, Aug. 31, 11 a.m., at The Covenant Church, 1700 Corey Blvd, Decatur.