The Coach Gaither Story

Coach Joe Gaither is a youth basketball coach who led his teams to regional and national championships for over forty years—but this story is about so much more than basketball. 

Joe’s story grew from his African roots, his mother’s struggles in the Jim Crow South, his start as a Black boy abandoned by his father, and his journey from player to coach, from young man to husband and father. Along the way, Coach Gaither became an inspiring mentor to hundreds of inner-city kids, enabling them to travel to distant cities for the first time in their lives, compete and win on the national level, and find a way to a college education that would otherwise be out of reach. 

Coach Joe built a network of coaches, volunteers, donors, and non-profit organizations to improve the lives of his players long after their days on the court.  You’ll be inspired by this story about reaching across racial and economic divides for the good of a community. In The Coach Gaither Story, youth basketball was simply the foundation for his ministry, a way of living out his faith in the service of a much larger and powerful story.

What people say about Coach Joe

“I have seen Coach Gaither take the toughest young man, angry at himself and the world, and turn him around into a different person, with hope for the future and a willingness to work hard. Of course, he had an unmatchable winning record with our team. However, it was more than that. His incredibly positive presence impacted our entire school. There is no one I respect more than Joe Gaither as a man, coach, and educator. “

Alyce Szathmary, former principal, William Fleming High School

“Joe Gaither could make you believe that outstanding achievement, that being the best, is as likely as taking your next breath. “

Russell Turner, head men’s basketball coach, University of California, Irvine 

“Of course, Joe wanted us to be competitive. But he wanted more from his players. He wanted us to compete with grace and dignity. Why? Because the world does not expect grace and dignity from young Black men. He always reminds us that the way we conducted ourselves reflected on us, on him, on our parents, and our community.”

Tony Joyce, former player, insurance company manager  

“Coach Joe has been in my life since I was fourteen, and I’m fifty-one now. Joe is dear to my heart, part of my family, and part of my life. I’m proud to be a branch of his coaching tree.” 

Jason Nibblet, Girls Basketball Coach, Carlisle School

“Coach Gaither had a tough-love approach that was stern but compassionate. I always knew he wanted the best for me and my family. He was the kind of coach you just didn’t want to let down because you knew he cared about you and genuinely wanted what was best for you in life. He called his players “son” because he treated them as such.”

Tarik Turner, college basketball studio and game analyst for FOX Sports

“When I’ve coached basketball, I have continued what I have learned from Coach Gaither, especially discipline and accountability. Young people respond to those values as long as they know that you also care about them personally, aside from their performance on the court. A sense of playfulness is also important to soften the impact when we all make mistakes no matter how hard we try. This was the foundation that I learned from Joe Gaither. Others have built on that foundation. However, nothing replaces that foundation.”

Curtis Blair, NBA referee

“This book is absolutely stunning—way beyond an excellent biography. It captures the strength and passion of Coach Gaither, brings to life on every page his intelligence, talent, vision, leadership, and faith, and most of all, his deep, caring soul.” 

Anna Lawson, Ph.D., former Chair of Board of Trustees, Hollins University

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