NORTON – The most successful football coach in the history of JI Burton died on Monday.
After struggling with multiple health issues over the past few years, James “Jimbo” Adams died Monday afternoon, family members have confirmed. He was 62.
Adams was Burton’s head football coach for 21 seasons, most recently in 2019 when the Raiders finished 9-3.
Adams was a mainstay of the Norton School for more than four decades and coached the Burton baseball team for eight seasons.
He graduated from Burton in 1979 where he played football.
Adams served as an assistant coach in the football program for 18 years before accepting the position of head coach.
After dismal seasons in the first three years, Adams then led the Raiders into the postseason for 18 straight seasons.
His teams posted a 175-81 record during his career as head coach, made five trips to state championship play, and won six regional titles and six district championships.
Adams spent most of his coaching career managing Burton at the ever-struggling Lonesome Pine District, which fell victim to consolidation and disbanded in the summer of 2012.
“Jimbo Adams made JI Burton a real factor in the LPD,” said retired VHSL Hall of Famer Phil Robbins, who coached against Adams for many years while he was in Powell Valley. “He installed offense and defense to fit his players to a T.”
Participation in the LPD was particularly challenging for Burton coaches because some of the member schools were twice the size or larger.
“But he held his own,” retired Burton basketball coach Stan Wilson, a longtime colleague and friend of Adams, said Monday. “His teams have always been competitive and have won more than their share against these teams.”
Wilson said Adams was a diligent coach and was always looking for ways to improve the program.
“The success of the program is entirely dependent on how hard he’s worked,” Wilson said.
Part of that hard work was Adams’ meticulous planning.
“In practice or in a game, we always knew where we were supposed to be and when we were supposed to be there,” said Ray Thacker, a longtime assistant coach under Adams and a lifelong friend. “He was a schedule person. He had a schedule for everything and expected everyone to stick to it.
“I think that was one of the reasons why he was such a successful coach.”
Thacker said the main reason for Adams’ success, however, stems from one word: discipline.
“He demanded discipline,” said Thacker, who served on Adams’ staff from 2002 to 2019. “His main thing was discipline and he treated every kid equally. It didn’t matter if you were a stud player or a second or third string player, he treated everyone the same and he disciplined everyone the same.
Thacker said Adams was a father figure to the players who came through the program.
“I watched a lot of kids coming the wrong way, and he made sure they were turned around and going the right way,” Thacker said. “I still see some of these guys today, long after they’ve played, and they’re still going in the right direction.”
That’s the legacy Adams left, Thacker said.
“He was unique. He will be missed,” Thacker said.