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Holman At The Helm: Long-Time Assistant New Football Coach

By Brian Pitts
Davie Enterprise Record

Doug Illing’s right-hand man for the past 15 years is now Illing’s successor as Davie High football coach. Devore Holman was named new coach on June 8, becoming the 10th coach in the 57-year history of the school.
Six of the 21 applicants were interviewed. Two were interviewed a second time. Holman is thrilled to be stepping up after being an assistant coach for 23 years and the defensive coordinator for the past 14 years. He’s replacing the winningest coach in Davie history, as Illing went 127-66 in 15 years.
“I’m tickled to death,” Holman said. “I’m humble beyond measure. I’m just grateful and thankful for having this opportunity. My phone has been going nonstop, people calling and congratulating me. My wife and I are blessed and we’re so proud.”
Holman, 47, is a life-long Davie County resident. Graduating in 1984, he played on the defensive line for Mike Carter from 1981-83.
Holman has served as assistant coach to four head coaches. In Carter’s eighth and final year at Davie in 1988, Holman was a volunteer coach on the defensive line with Buddy Lowery. Carter left for Mooresville after that season, and Holman didn’t coach for two years.
Randall Ward coaxed Holman back onto the gridiron in 1991, and Holman never left.
“Randall gave me a call in 1991,” he said. “Me and Jeff Ward, Randall’s brother, started back coaching. I was a volunteer defensive line coach with Randall.”
Holman was a volunteer coach for six years. In the summer of 1996, he was hired by the school system. He has coached defensive line or linebackers throughout the 23 years. In 1999 the role of defensive coordinator was given to him.
“I know God moves at His time and not my time,” Holman said. “I’ve been fortunate to work under four different head coaches (Carter, Ward, Benjie Brown and Illing), and during that time I’ve been able to look at each of those coaches and see the things they did that I like. It’s things I always thought I’d like to implement into my program.
“The past 15 years being with coach Illing, I didn’t know it along the way but he had been preparing me for this moment for a long time. And I’m ready. I feel I’m ready and more than capable of leading this team. I can’t do this by myself. I do know I’ve got the best coaching staff in the state of North Carolina, and together under my leadership we’re going to take the program to the next level. I’m happy and proud to say that.”
When Holman was a player, an old teammate will tell you he would wrestle an 800-pound grizzly for a fumble if he had to. He was a hard-nosed player who went all-out all the time.
He’s one of the nicest people you’ll meet, but you don’t want to get in his way during practice or on game day. His perpetually smiling face away from the field becomes a game face with a penetrating glare.
“I know how hard he’s worked to get to where he’s at,” Barry Whitlock, the Davie County athletics director, said. “He’s ready.”
According to Assistant Superintendent Jeff Wallace, Holman is one of the best feel-good stories to hit Davie athletics in recent years. One of Holman’s best attributes is being able to transition from stern taskmaster to best friend.
“It’s more than just a football coach,” Wallace said. “They have to be an effective educator. They have to be an effective communicator. They have to be able to embrace a community. They’ve got to be able to put Davie County on their back and help carry this community. That’s how important it is.
“Three of the candidates have played for or won state championships. But it’s more than X’s and O’s. Doug was more than that to our community. In the last four years Devore has been preparing himself for a head-coaching position. He’s been to colleges and presented his defense and talked about what he does. We definitely feel like he’s ready. He has strong, strong support from the (coaching) staff. He’s proven himself with the impact he has with this community.”
One particular conversation with a Davie football player summed up the sentiment many have for Holman.
“I said: ‘What if Devore Holman was your next football coach?’” Wallace said. “He said immediately: ‘I’d run into a fire for that man.’ You know how many people would say that about him. He’s more than just a coach.”
With Holman calling the shots on defense over the last 14 years, the War Eagles made a lot of hay: 121-61 record, eight league championships and an 18-10 playoff record. They reached the semifinals with a record 14 wins in ‘04, and they made an unprecedented run to the 4A final in ‘10. In four other years, Davie advanced to the quarterfinals.
Illing, the new coach at Socastee High in Myrtle Beach, S.C., appreciates Holman for much more than his coaching ability.
“It’s beyond words what he has meant to me as a person, what he has meant to me as a football coach and what he has meant to our kids,” Illing said. “He was here when I came along (in 1998). He had an opportunity to go to West Rowan with probably his best friend at that time (Scott Young). He made a decision to stay home with a stranger from Winston-Salem. He’s grown as a coach along the way with me. He’s been through some difficult times with me and we’ve mentored each other. We’re cried together and we’ve laughed together.
“People may say he doesn’t have any head-coaching experience, and that’s really not true because he was the head coach of that defense every day. He’s got coaches all over the state coming to Davie County in the winter to talk to him and see what he’s doing defensively and how he does it. He speaks at clinics. He’s very well respected.
“He’ll have some decisions he’s never had to make before, dealing with parents and community stuff. But he’s ready. He’s capable of doing that. He handles it every day at school, dealing with parents of troubled children …