Legendary Mary Persons coach Dan Pitts dies at age 88

Dan Pitts was Mary Persons’ coach from 1959 through 1997 and won 15 region titles and one state championship in 1980. (AJC)
Dan Pitts was Mary Persons’ coach from 1959 through 1997 and won 15 region titles and one state championship in 1980. (AJC)

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Dan Pitts, who retired after the 1997 season as Georgia’s high school football coach with the most wins all-time, died Tuesday. Pitts was 88.

Pitts was Mary Persons’ coach from 1959 through 1997 and won 15 region titles and one state championship, in 1980. The Bulldogs had winning seasons for each of their last 32 years under Pitts, whose record was 346-109-4.

Pitts was an all-state quarterback at Lincolnton High in the early 1950s but had no coaching experience when he took the Mary Persons job. He won only 12 games over those first four seasons, even suffering an 0-10 finish, but Mary Persons emerged from those early struggles to become a consistent state power in Class 2A, reaching the semifinals eight times and playing in four state-championship games.

In 1980, Mary Persons defeated Duluth 34-6 for a state championship and finished 15-0.

Newnan coach Chip Walker, who won three state titles at Sandy Creek, is among several Georgia coaches who have cited Pitts among their greatest influences. Pitts gave Walker his first coaching job at Mary Persons in 1996.

“He taught work ethic,” Walker said in a 2014 interview. “Nobody was going to outwork coach Pitts. Be good on defense and special teams, and don’t let your offense beat you early.”

Pitts was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1995. Pitts also was a member of the National High School Sports Hall of Fame, the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Monroe County Sports Hall of Fame. In 2001, Mary Persons named its stadium in Pitts’ honor.

Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in the Forsyth City Cemetery.

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