MADISON – The year was 1975. Hip-huggers, wide collar shirts and bell-bottoms were in style, the Vietnam War ended, All in the Family was the No. 1 rated television show, Jaws hit the big screen, Microsoft was born, "Love Will Keep Us Together" by The Captain and Tennille was the top song, and Gerald Ford was in the White House.

One could buy a stamp for 10 cents, a quart of milk 46 cents, and a loaf of bread 37 cents back then.

That same year a brash, blonde-haired 22-year-old fresh out of college at Mississippi State by the name of Richard Ervin Duease rolled into the parking lot of Manchester Academy in his sporty yellow Jag XKE Convertible for his first coaching gig. He coached girls track and was also an assistant football coach, but he was there mainly to coach boys basketball.

"He was smooth as ice cream, very cool, very suave," recalled Ed Jourdan, a senior on that 1975 Manchester team coached by Duease, then single. "He took all the women in Yazoo City by storm."

That was off the court. On the court?

"He was a Bobby Knight junior back in the day," said Jeff Johnson, another member of that '75 team. "He didn't throw chairs or anything like that, but he was tough on us. He would run the heck out of us, sometimes to the point where some of the guys would throw up."

Duease had a nickname for each player, according to Jourdan and Johnson. They had a nickname for their coach, also. They just made sure not to say it loud enough to the point where Duease heard them.

"He was only a few years older than us when he coached us, so we called him 'Dubaby,'" said Jourdan, with a chuckle. "We all thought it was pretty funny. I'm sure he wouldn't have cared for that too much. We only said it behind his back."

Duease led Manchester to a winning record in his first year as a head coach. Looking back, he's not so sure how.

"I really had no clue what I was doing that year," recalled Duease, who won 48 games in three years at Manchester. "I was nuts. If I remember right, I had something like 13 technicals before Christmas. I told my parents I was going to coach for one year, just to get it out of my system. That's how I approached it. I guess I never have because I'm still coaching all these years later. I never thought I would be in it this long."

Nearly four decades later, Duease, now 65, has mellowed out some, although he's still demanding and intense. He's a happily-married man, and has been for 30 years. He has a 28-year old daughter who has held his heart since the day she was born. The long, blonde hair is now gray. He makes considerably more money than the $7,000 per year he pocketed as a rookie coach. He's a regular at First Baptist Church in Jackson. And he's driving a white Mercedes these days instead of that convertible.

While a lot has changed, two things have remained constant: Duease is still winning, and he's doing it his way. He's won so much, in fact, that he enters this season – his 43rd overall and his 36th at MRA – just three wins shy of becoming Mississippi's all-time winningest boys high school basketball coach. Duease enters Saturday's season-opener against defending Class 6A state champion Meridian at Jones Junior College with 1,021 career boys wins. Former Ingomar coach Norris Ashley, now retired, is the current record holder at 1,023.

Duease has 973 boy's wins at MRA in 35 seasons, an average of 28 victories a year. He's expected to have another good team this year, so it's more a matter of when he will surpass Ashley not if. While Duease is well aware of the record, he rarely, if ever, talks about it. And he certainly hasn't spent much time thinking about it.

"I'm too busy trying to figure out a way to beat Meridian," he quipped. "All I can say is I've been very blessed. You know when God has put you in the right place, and He put me in the right place. When He's in control, and He is, you don't worry about things. Everything falls into place the way He intends for it to fall into place."

Ashley and Duease are the only boy's coaches in Mississippi to reach the 1,000 win mark. The Patriots helped Duease reach that milestone last season with a win over Archbishop Rummel (La.) in the Sunkist Shootout holiday tournament at Lafayette, La. Three more wins brings yet another milestone for the local hoops icon, who has built MRA into the preeminent boys basketball program in the MAIS. The Patriots figure to be in the mix for yet another gold ball this season despite heavy personnel losses.

There's no way Duease could've imagined reaching such heights all those years ago when he started out in the coaching profession. He was just happy to have a job, even though the pay was minimal and it required him coaching three sports. He wasn't on the verge of breaking any records back then, just fingers. A terrific athlete in his own right back in those days, Duease, playing scout team quarterback as an assistant coach, threw the ball so hard he injured not one, but both starting cornerbacks in the same week. One suffered a dislocated finger, and two days later the other left practice with a compound fracture in one of his fingers.

"True story," says Bill McGraw, one of those players. "He was a tough guy, you know how he is. He thought he could just pull my finger back out and I would be okay. I said 'no coach, it's a little more serious this time.' They didn't let him run scout team quarterback any more after that."

McGraw also played basketball for Duease. He was a sophomore on the '75 team. "There was no way of knowing then that he would go on to be as successful as he's been, but he was a good coach from an early age," he said.

Nationally, Duease ranks first among active coaches and is tied for 9th all-time according to the National Federation of High School Association, which does not recognize MAIS records. Bob Hurley, one of only three high school coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame, was No. 1 among active coaches. He is no longer coaching, however, as basketball powerhouse St. Anthony (New Jersey) closed its doors this past year.

Duease also has 592 wins as a girls' head coach (on top of his 1,021 boys wins), dating back to his days at Clarksdale Lee in the late 1970's-early 80's. He coached girls and boys at MRA from 1982-2002, but has coached boys only the past 15 seasons. At 1,613 total career wins, Duease is 85 wins shy of becoming the state's all-time winningest high school basketball coach. Ashley (1,697) also owns that record.

While that record is on the radar, and certainly well within reach, the focus, for now at least, is on Duease becoming Mississippi's all-time winningest boys coach. The record should fall sometime later this month. When it does, it will be a proud moment for Duease and the school he's been associated with for so long.

"We're certainly proud of Coach Duease and all that he's accomplished," MRA Head of School Termie Land said. "He's the best. The greatest thing about him, however, is not all the victories and all the championships it's the impact he's had on all the players he's coached through the years. He's touched so many lives in a very positive way."

While many of Duease's wins have come within the MAIS, it should be noted that this inevitable milestone is far from just a Mississippi private school commodity. For years, MRA has played teams from across the country – he has won games in 12 different states. He also plays a tough non-league schedule every year, including games against top-tier public schools from across the state. He was the forerunner in doing so.

Along with Meridian, MRA is also slated to play Lafayette County, St. Andrew's, Harrison Central, Coahoma County, Desoto Central, and Florence among others this season. The Patriots also host St. Thomas More (La.), and are once again playing in the Sunkist Shootout where they will face four teams from Louisiana. It's a rather ambitious schedule considering MRA must find a way to replace four starters, including two-time third-team All-State selection Devin Gilmore, who is now a freshman at Murray State. All-stars Donovan Lewis (now at Mississippi Valley State) and Darrell McClendon along with power forward Cory Jackson also departed.

Those four players accounted for nearly 46 points, 23 rebounds and 11 assists per game a year ago as MRA went 33-9 and captured its 11th Overall title. The Patriots have now won Overall three of the past four years and nine of the last 13. The only returning starter is forward Braxton Eubanks.

"We lost a lot, there's no doubt," Duease said. "You really don't replace a player like Devin Gilmore, who I thought was one of the best two athletes in the state last year. And we had some other really good players on that team, as well. But I feel pretty good about this year's team. I wish we had a little more depth in some key areas, and we're counting on some guys who have never been asked to be the man before. If they are willing to do that, we'll be pretty good. If not, then anything can happen."

Minus Gilmore and Co., MRA will have an entirely different look this season. Newcomers Mike Carter, Mario White, Trey Fort and Zach Jones are expected to join Eubanks in the starting lineup. LiLewis Davis also figures to play a prominent role, whether as a starter or in a sixth man role, when he joins the team once football season is over. Five of the top six players are seniors with Fort, a junior, being the only exception.

Expect sophomore guards D.H. Dew and Ryan Kitchens and junior swingman Walker Manning to be in the rotation, as well. Dew, in fact, has been starting at point guard much of the preseason as Carter was sidelined nearly eight weeks with an injured hip.

While this year's team may not be as athletic as last year's team, it has shown signs in the preseason of being better on the defensive end. The top eight players are all excellent passers, as well, so sharing the ball shouldn't be an issue, either.

"As long as we can play together as a team, and not individually, and everybody plays hard, we should be okay," Duease said.

Eubanks has been a part of two Overall championship teams. He averaged 7 points and 7 rebounds per game a year ago. Often overshadowed by his fellow teammates the past two years, this year presents him with more of an opportunity to shine and lead. "He's Mr. Hustle," Duease said. "He does the dirty work for our team. He has to continue to do that for us to be successful."

Carter brings speed to the point guard position. "He's a true point guard," Duease said. "He sees the floor very well, and he shoots it good. He doesn't turn the ball over much, either, which is always a good trait for your point guard."

White and Fort will join Carter in the backcourt. "Mario is one of the best offensive rebounders I've coached in a long time," Duease said. He really likes to be involved in the action. I'm expecting him to have a big year. Trey is a really good athlete, good shooter. We've got to get him playing harder, once that happens he's going to be a complete player."

The 6-foot-6 Jones joins Eubanks in the frontcourt. He is the grandson of Mississippi College athletic director Mike Jones, who is part of the most recent class of inductees into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. "I think Zach will be one of the better post players in the state. We've got to get him to the point where he does a better job of closing out the deal when he gets the ball inside, but he has great moves and he has great range. I'm looking for him to have a big year."

Lewis, a burly 6-4 forward, missed most of last season after tearing his ACL in the summer. It marked his second ACL injury/surgery since arriving at MRA. He's a versatile player, capable of stepping out and shooting 3's or banging inside.

"He's an inside-outside player," Duease said. "He's a tough matchup for a lot of people. We just hope that his knee is in good shape and he's ready to go full speed."

Juniors Hamp Hudnall, Cole Ruwe, Justin Jackson, William Milam, sophomores Josh Tucker, Graham Feild, Landon Fulcher and Jack Deddens, and senior Blake Baldwin add depth to the backcourt. Meanwhile, senior Alec Honan, junior Sam Shufelt, and sophomores Russ Sceroler, and Brendan Butler add depth at the frontcourt positions.

Eubanks has been with Duease the longest.

"It's pretty cool being part of history," he said. "We're looking forward to him breaking the record, but our main focus is trying to win Overall again. And I'm sure he would say the same thing."

Johnson and the rest of the members of the '75 Manchester team can also take pride in the fact that they played a role in helping Duease achieve his latest milestone.

"He was tough, but I enjoyed playing for him," said Johnson, who co-owns a boutique in Oxford. "I'm glad he's going to have the record. That's a cool thing to be able to say I played for the winning-est coach in Mississippi history. He's a class act, too. Anytime he's in Oxford he makes a point to come by the store and say hello. I love getting to see him. He's had such an impact on myself and my family."