Joe Giddens: Making boys into men

Giddens was on the Buccaneers' championship basketball team with best friend Vince Carter in 1995.

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  • | 10:53 a.m. December 23, 2017
Mainland boys basketball coach Joe Giddens. Photo by Ray Boone
Mainland boys basketball coach Joe Giddens. Photo by Ray Boone
  • Ormond Beach Observer
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Growing up in the projects in Daytona Beach, where gun fire would routinely pop throughout the night and drugs were a common commodity, Joe Giddens had only three options.

“I was either going to be on drugs or selling drugs,” he said. “Or I was going to make it out.”

He wanted a better life. He hungered for one. And his mother, Joanne Giddens, was his motivation.

Nearly every day throughout Joe Giddens’ childhood, his mom would shake her children awake at 4 a.m. and drop them off at a neighboring friend’s house. While her children prepared for school, she prepared for work. From about 5 a.m. to 5 p.m., Joanne Giddens, who also worked a second job in a nursing home, drove a school bus for Volusia County. Thirty years later, she’s still driving.

“She would leave one job and go to the other just so we could have extra,” Joe Giddens said. “To see her push herself like that: Most kids don’t understand that, but I did. Seeing my mom work every day trying to make ends meet pushed me. It’s where I got my work ethic from.”

From an early age, Joe Giddens pushed himself. He was a three-year starter on Mainland’s boys basketball team, where he teamed up with eventual NBA superstar Vince Carter, his best friend, to win a state championship in 1995. (When Carter graduated, Joe Giddens won another state championship in 1996). He accepted a scholarship to play college football for Virginia Union before transferring to Bethune-Cookman and went on to play professionally in Canada. When he hung up his jersey, Joe Giddens served as a basketball coach at Spruce Creek High School for 16 years.

But now, he’s home.

Mainland coach Joe Giddens shouts instructions to his team from the bench. Photo by Ray Boone
Mainland coach Joe Giddens shouts instructions to his team from the bench. Photo by Ray Boone

Where Joe Giddens once walked the halls as a student and player, he’s now a basketball coach.

“Words cannot explain what it means to me to be back here,” said Joe Giddens, who accepted the head coaching position for the Buccaneers’ boys basketball team before the start of the 2017 season. “Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve been smiling. I’m happy to be here. I know people say this is a football school, but this used to be a basketball school, and that’s what we’re trying to get back.”

He’s tasked with reviving a Buccaneers team that won a total of five games last season. But he’s not worried about the wins and losses.

The success on the court will come. It’s the success off it — in the classroom and in the community — that he’s most concerned with.

“As a coach, I’m trying to build young men, not just basketball players,” Joe Giddens said. “I grew up here. Some of these kids are in different situations, but I want to show them that they can do it; they can make it out, too.”



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