Columbia names basketball court to honor county legend

Columbia High School renamed its basketball court in honor of boys’ basketball coach Phil McCrary on Nov. 28 — just days after DeKalb’s all-time winningest boys basketball coach picked up win No. 700 during a tournament in the Bahamas.

McCrary—who is also a member of the Clark Atlanta and Atlanta Sports halls of fame—has coached Columbia to five state titles and eight state title appearances. The 30-plus year DeKalb coaching veteran said the court renaming was the greatest honor he’s received as a coach.

“This tops it all,” said McCrary. “Being able to make the community proud and knowing that you did the best you can do, giving the community something to cheer about tops it all.”

The ceremony publicly revealed the new court design, which features McCrary’s name and signature on both sides of the court. Columbia Principal Derrica Booche-Davis, DeKalb Schools Superintendent Devon Horton, DeKalb County 3rd District Commissioner Larry Johnson, and a host of former Columbia athletes, alumni, and McCrary’s coaching peers attended the ceremony.

Johnson read a proclamation signed by himself and DeKalb County Government CEO Michael Thurmond at the event. The proclamation congratulated McCrary on his coaching career and thanked him for his service to DeKalb.

DeKalb County government officials gave McCrary a proclamation that they made in his honor. Photos by Jay Phillips

McCrary began the season with a head coaching record of 695-240 and has led his team to a 6-0 start to follow up a 30-win season and a Final Four appearance in 2022-23.

At media day, before the season began, McCrary highlighted his team’s versatility and shooting and talked up the ability of point guard Trevian Callaway. Callaway won tournament MVP in the Bahamas as Columbia won the Dales Burns Classic championship in Freeport, Bahamas and secured win No. 700 for McCrary in the process.

The win also marked Columbia’s second consecutive season winning a tournament in the Bahamas — a feat that McCrary said sets his program apart from others.

“I want to give the students an opportunity to experience something outside of Decatur by taking them on extravagant tours and trips,” said McCrary. “I want them to understand that their talent can take them around the world. The game of basketball can take you many places, and I want to show them that there’s something to experience outside of Decatur.”

McCrary’s coaching career is still highlighted by his season win totals and post season runs.

Columbia has made 19 consecutive playoff appearances with McCrary at the helm. He coached the Eagles from 1998-2012 and from 2017 to the present. During that time, McCrary’s Eagles have become the second winningest boys’ basketball program in DeKalb with 904 wins at press time.

McCrary has won 30 or more games six times at Columbia and won 20-plus games in 17 seasons. He won state championships in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

A DeKalb County School District spokesperson added that during the first run to three consecutive state title appearances (2006-2008), his teams went 93-6 capturing titles in 2006 and 2008. During a three-year reign as state champions from 2010-12, his teams went 89-9.

Columbia has made two Final Four appearances and won a region championship in the past three seasons.

McCrary’s name and signature appear on both sides of the court.

McCrary’s two successful stints at Columbia and the consistency he has instilled in the program can be used as motivation for other coaches in DeKalb — a county where coaching turnover has reached double digits in recent years.

“You have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes it’s good to stay home and build the things that you have at home,” said McCrary. “If you build a good foundation, they’ll come. Parents will bring kids to you if they know you’re doing things the right way.”

The Eagles will be back in action on Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Towers and will play at home on Dec. 5 against Redan at 7:30 p.m.

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