High School Sports

Northern Durham's Gary Merrill is back in a familiar position

Posted August 15, 2011

— Gary Merrill is the new guy on campus at Northern Durham High School. He doesn't have a desk, a computer or a phone yet, but what he does have are a lot of memories.

Merrill spent 24 successful seasons as a coach for the Knights including 10 years as the head coach. He decided to walk away from the job after the 2004 season following the death of his wife who he met when she was a trainer at the school. 

Mitchell: Gary Merrill's back on the sidelines for Northern Durham Mitchell: Gary Merrill's back on the sidelines for Northern Durham

"It was a very hard decision," Merrill said. "I felt like I needed a change at that time. You go out and start thinking about stuff, and it just works out for you."

And that's exactly what happened. Merrill has dabbled in coaching in the years since he left Northern. Last year, the itch to be a high school head coach returned and good timing brought him back to the place he calls home.

"I missed that comraderie between the coaches and the players," said Merrill. "If you've never been in that situation, never been in coaching I don't think you understand that. The job came open in April. Things worked out and I now I'm back." 

Merrill is back with some of his former players who are now on the Northern coaching staff and back in the same halls where he met his wife.

"If anybody's been through that and say they don't think about that, then I don't think they're being truthful," said Merrill.  

Merrill says he's hoping he can build the program back to what it was before he left. But he says the only thing he knows right now is he's having fun.


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  • HappyGirl08 Aug 16, 2011

    But, does he still teach biology? ha! That was an interesting class...

  • Mr Davis Aug 16, 2011

    Having played under Coach Merrill in the early to mid 80's I'm glad to see him back. He brings credibility, intensity and tenacity the program has been lacking. Best of luck to Coach, his staff and players. As for Mr Walters, he must of went to a school that got an annual waxing from NHS.

    Mr Davis

  • Nick Stevens Aug 16, 2011

    A comment had to be removed from this story today and a user banned from HighSchoolOT.com. Please do not post idiotic comments that can harm people on this website.

    Please make sure all of your comments abide by our Terms of Use (http://www.highschoolot.com/content/page/3330469/), and if you aren't sure if something is appropriate, it's probably best that you not post it.

  • catalyst Aug 16, 2011

    Kenny walters, sounds a bit disgruntled. You should fact check all of your statements.

  • kennywalters Aug 15, 2011

    Funny that Coach Merrill "retired" from Person High because he didn't want to teach any more and just coach football. Paid coaches are required to teach in this state. So, is Coach Merrill teaching, a volunteer coach, or is this more creativity exhibited by the schools in Durham? Kind of like when they get "transfers" from other counties who didn't qualify to play football in their home county but mysteriously are eligible under Durham Public Schools guidelines. Have to love it.

  • NHFD 4030 Aug 15, 2011

    Welcome back, the program as of late certainly needs some coaching strength. When I went to Northern, Merrill was an asst coach, and Browning was our head coach. I'd love to see Northern back on top of the conference again, dominating.

  • VT1994Hokie Aug 15, 2011

    Great article. I wish this Coach nothing but success, happiness, and total joy in coming back. I hope that he can take them to the Championship. One former coach to another.

  • Barf-olomew Aug 15, 2011

    Coach is a fantastic guy. I wish him nothing but the best, and much success in restoring Knight Pride!