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Athletic Hall of Fame

Athletic Hall of Fame

Two basketball and baseball coaches from Kernersville, Roger Nelson and Sandy Gann, were among the 15 inductees of the inaugural Northwest Guilford High School (NWGHS) Athletic Hall of Fame for 2022. Nelson was instrumental in hiring three of the coaches, Sandy Gann, Charlie Groves and Darlene Joyner, and one of the players, John Dixon, who were also inducted into the inaugural Northwest Guilford High School Hall of Fame. The ceremony honoring the inaugural class was held on Jan 20, 2023.
Nelson was born in Kernersville and lived here for 89 years. He was a good athlete and played baseball and football while attending Kernersville High School. He also could have played basketball, but did not due to other concerns.
“Basketball season just happened to be in the same season as rabbit hunting. I did play with the VFW basketball team at night and on weekends. I had other things to do with 14 rabbit dogs during basketball season,” Nelson wrote in his book, “The Adventures of Roger L. Nelson.”
After serving in the Marine Corps, Nelson attended High Point College and, because he attended both winter and summer terms, he graduated in 1958 after only three years of college. His first coaching job was at Germanton School during the last three months of the school year. Nelson had an immediate impact as a coach.
“There were eight more basketball games to play. The boys’ win-loss record was 0-26 for the previous two years. The record for the eight games I coached was 4-4,” Nelson wrote in his book.
The following fall Nelson applied for the coaching job at Colfax School, coaching baseball and the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams. After three seasons at Colfax, the fourth was the charm. The Colfax boys’ 1962 basketball team won the Class 1-A State championship.
With the consolidation of Colfax, Stokesdale and Summerfield schools, Nelson was hired as the head coach of boys’ basketball at NWGHS. He guided the Vikings to four regular season conference championships and three tournament titles. The boys’ team was four-time sectional champions and two-time state runner ups. Nelson guided the Northwest boys’ team to the 1967 Class 3-A State championship. His basketball win/loss record was 240-54. At the time he left teaching and coaching he was considered to be the premier coach in the state by his colleagues. He was named Coach of the Year numerous times in various conferences. The gymnasium at NWGHS is named in his honor.
In 1974, Nelson accepted the position of principal at Northwest Junior High School and from 1980 to 1994, he was the principal at NWGHS. Nelson was also named Principal of the Year during his tenure at NWGHS.
Nelson feels honored to be among the 15 inductees to the Northwest Guilford High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Sandy Gann was born in Stokes County in 1944, but his family moved to the Union Cross community of Forsyth County when he was three-years-old.
Gann attended Glenn High School from 1958-1962 where he played varsity basketball and baseball all four years. He enjoyed a very successful high school career as the shortstop, playing every inning of every game for all four years. The highlight of Gann’s high school career came in his senior year (1962). His batting average was .550, which was the highest in the state of North Carolina. Gann was an All-Conference player for three years and was voted to play in the East-West All-Star game in 1962.
After graduation, Gann continued his baseball career at Guilford College. He played second base for the Quakers all four years and led the team in hitting with a .385 mark in his sophomore year and hit the long ball as well as singles. He also led the team in runs batted in. Gann was All-Conference in the Old Carolina’s conference in 1965 and 1966. During his senior year he helped lead his team to a fourth place finish in the NAIA National Baseball Tournament. He was named to the All-Tournament team and set a tournament record with seven straight hits, a national record he held for almost 30 years. Gann earned his bachelor degree from Guilford College and later received his master’s degree from NC A&T University.
For 32 years Gann was the baseball coach at NWGHS and had a 422-248 overall record. His teams captured six conference championships, went to the state playoffs 12 times and his team won the Class 4-A State championship in 1998. This was his favorite coaching experience.
“I announced my retirement early in the season of my final year as head baseball coach. I knew I had a good team, but we struggled during the first part of the season and had to win the conference tournament to make the playoffs,” Gann said. “We won the conference tournament and then won five straight playoff games to advance to the state championship game. We won the state championship by beating Athens Drive in a best-of-three series. Athens Drive had a junior named Josh Hamilton (a five-time MLB All-Star and the 2010 American League MVP) as their star. My oldest son, Sonny, was the pitching coach and my youngest son, John, was the senior shortstop on the team. That tournament was my most memorable coaching experience.”
During his baseball coaching tenure at NWGHS, Gann was named Conference Coach of the Year six times, was named Guilford County Coach of the Year and State Coach of the Year. At the time of his retirement he was the fourth winningest active coach in North Carolina. The NWGHS baseball field was named after him upon his retirement.
As the head basketball coach at Northwest Guilford from 1969 to 1984, Gann won 212 games and claimed four conference championships and five conference tournament titles. He was named Coach of the Year four times within the conference and Guilford County Coach of the Year twice.
Gann credits much of his success to his own coaches.
“I loved playing baseball and basketball, and I was influenced greatly by my high school coach, Jack Musten, and college coach, Stuart Maynard. Both were excellent role models and taught you about life as well as a lot about the sport. They made a tremendous impact on my life and I wanted to impact others like they did me,” Gann said. “I wanted to take each individual player from where he was when he entered our program and assist him in developing to his full potential as a player. When that occurred, that was my most rewarding experience.”
Gann has some advice for beginning coaches and current coaches.
“As a beginning coach, I would try to get on the staff of a proven coach and learn the ins and outs of building and maintaining a quality, successful program. Also, seek out mentors among former successful coaches for their wisdom and expertise. Never stop learning about the game. In addition, be yourself and don’t try to be someone you are not,” Gann said. “I have always believed that the game is created for the kids. People come to watch young men and women play, not to watch me coach, so the focus is on the players. I tell my players to go out there and have fun. If you don’t enjoy playing you should not be out there.”
In addition to his baseball accomplishments, Gann served as the Athletics Director at NWGHS for 22 years. During this time, the school won 10 straight Wachovia Cups.
For performance as a baseball player, coach and contributions to the community, Gann has been inducted into the Guilford College Hall of Fame (1990), Forsyth County Hall of Fame (1994), the N.C. High School Baseball Association Hall of Fame (2014), the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame (2014) and the George Whitfield Baseball Clinic Hall of Fame (2016).

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