That’s how McKissick has lived, guiding the Green Wave to 10 state titles while missing out on the fame of coaching at some big-time university or in the NFL. Much like the character George Bailey in the classic holiday movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” he might just be the richest coach on the planet even though his bank account can’t possibly match up to someone like Alabama’s Nick Saban (who, by the way, is 431 wins behind McKissick).
John T. Curtis Jr., coach of the John Curtis Christian School in Louisiana, has 513 wins. St. John’s (Minn.) coach John Gagliardi is the college leader with 487 victories while Don Shula holds the professional mark with 347 wins.
“I look forward to getting up every morning and coming into work,” the Summerville coach says. “If I didn’t do it, I don’t know what I’d do. I like golf, but I don’t play that much. I never was real good at it.”
Most of us strive for that day when we can quit whatever we’re doing, perhaps the thing we do best, and just do nothing. But McKissick never even talks about retirement, giving him a sense of purpose that is missing in the lives of so many senior citizens. Bear Bryant lasted barely a month after retiring as Alabama’s coach. Who knows how many years McKissick added to his life because he’s always had a place to go every morning?
Sure, there comes a time when we just can’t do the job we once did. Our bodies break down. Our minds struggle to keep up. Even McKissick has heard grumbling around his town of 44,000 from those who think it’s time for someone younger to take over, who aren’t thrilled that the Green Wave is going on 14 years since its last state title.
“Every now and then, you’ll have one who says, `Hey, coach, you’re getting too old.’ I’ll have one stop me and stay, `Y’all are awful, coach,’” McKissick says. “My answer to them is always, `Did you buy a ticket to get in? … If you bought a ticket, say whatever you want but don’t get personal. If you didn’t buy a ticket, go on and get out.’”
He starts to chuckle.
“That’s how I handle it.”
McKissick had a heart scare a few years ago, prompting him to get a pacemaker. He doesn’t jog around the practice fields very often, scooting around on a golf cart. Mindful of his limitations, he’s passed off many of his coaching duties to his assistants. He is grateful for their service, for caring as much about Summerville High as he does.
“When you have that, you don’t have any fussing,” he says. “We don’t fuss at each other, just talk, and they respect what I think and I respect what they do.”
Summerville got off to a rough start this season, winning just two of its first six games. But the Green Wave bounced back with a four-game winning streak, capped by a 37-21 win over rival Ashley Ridge that gave McKissick his latest milestone Friday night.
Not that he’s keeping count.
He prefers to keep looking toward the future, not living in the past.
“Well, you know, as a football coach, I count one at a time,” McKissick says. “It’s another win, and if it totals up to 600, that’s great. I feel good for the kids. I feel good for the boys. They tell everyone they were part of the 600th. I think they will be proud of that.”