ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina State's Buddy Pough sits on the doorstep of history.
The Bulldogs head coach needs one victory to tie Willie Jeffries on the program's all-time wins list with 128.
"Coach is probably the guy that we all look back on and reflect on as being the best handler of men of anybody I've ever been associated with," Pough recalled of his former coach.
Pough played for Jeffries in the early 70s and the two maintain a close relationship to this day. Being around Coach Jeffries all these years means one thing: be prepared to laugh.
"I'm the punch line for most of his jokes,” Pough noted.
Of all of Coach Jeffries comedic material, there’s one joke that stands out as Pough's all-time favorite quip from Jeffries.
"Has such a great marriage for 40 some odd years, he's been married for 50 some odd years. I've been married for 40 some odd years,” Pough recalled. “We go out to dinner twice a week. Soft music and dim lights, all that kind of stuff. She goes on Tuesday and I go on Thursday."
In all seriousness, keeping it fun has been an essential lesson for running a successful program.
"He was the best at relaxing you and getting you to best your very best,” Pough said. “I try now not to make things so serious and so intense that you go out and are tight about everything."
Pough's found his winning style in 17 seasons at SC State, capturing six MEAC titles along the way. It was his first head coaching gig at Keenan High in the late 80s and early 90s where Midlands basketball legends shaped his destiny in the profession.
"They took those same kids that I had that I couldn't win a game with, I went 1-10 with, and almost won a state championship with those same guys,” Pough said. “So, the next year, I started to implement some of the same stuff I saw basketball coaches doing around town. We started to have success. From that point, I kind of figured I might be able to hang in this business for a little while longer. For a minute, I thought I was going to have to get myself a job."
After all these years, there’s no need to worry, as Pough can tie Coach Jeffries’ record with a win Saturday at Delaware State.