Last week, I talked about a “new thing” starting up in my life.
My column last week detailed some of the relationships at Lake Oconee News that I will always cherish when my time at the company ends after Friday.
This week, I want to talk about another group of people I will miss: our area’s coaches. I must start by discussing our athletic directors.
Andrea Finch has been the AD at Nathanael Greene Academy the last couple of years. She’s helped me navigate ever-changing schedules for football, volleyball and baseball. I greatly appreciate her always keeping me in the loop.
The first area AD I met was Russell Morgan at Greene County. That’s because my connection with Morgan predates my tenure at this paper. Back when I was a junior attending Greene, Morgan taught my business education class while he was an assistant football coach. He left GCHS the following year and returned as the new AD before I took my current job.
Reconnecting with Morgan has been fun. It was great having a familiar face greet me as I began this job. It’s been great working with him again and getting to know his wife, Tanya, a good bit and meeting his son, Thomas. I’m just bummed I never got Morgan converted from being an Alabama fan.
Doug Connelly at Morgan County is another great AD. Connelly leads the biggest athletics program in our area, both from a number-of-sports-offered standpoint and a number-of-participants standpoint. It can’t be easy directing a Class AAA program but he makes it look easy.
Finally, I’ve got to give a shoutout to Lake Oconee Academy AD Chris Ingle. I’ve worked with Ingle the most purely because he also coaches volleyball and girls soccer. I’ll always appreciate Ingle ensuring I got my postgame interviews from his teams and his patience with my limited knowledge of volleyball.
I could probably talk about each coach I’ve encountered these last four years and have a fond memory with them. I don’t have that type of space, though, so I’ll hit a few highlights.
Without question, the coach who consistently provided stats without fail was LOA girls basketball coach Kevin Furtado. He keeps up with everything. LOA baseball coach Jeremy Donaldson is a close second. I’ve told some people that, if I ever wanted to know the length of an LOA player’s hair for any given game, I would not be surprised if Furtado had that data on file. I’m only half-joking! But seriously, those stats have made my job easy. They also helped me do better, more in-depth reporting. Big thanks to Furtado and Donaldson for always providing that information.
I must thank LOA boys basketball coach Michael Brooker. His team is in foundation-building mode and it has not been easy. I’ve always appreciated how Brooker was willing to do interviews with me even after tough losses. I hope we get to see that program take a major step forward soon.
Of course, there’s another Coach Brooker to recognize: Julie Brooker, Michael’s wife. Julie Brooker coaches LOA softball and boys soccer. I wanted so much for her to lead the soccer team to a state title these past two years – because the Titans absolutely had that potential – but a tough GMC team and COVID-19 got in the way. Brooker’s got the team set up well for the future, though, and the same goes for softball alongside assistant coach Keetah Singleton.
I knew of Larry Milligan when I was younger. My first year at GCHS was the final year of his first tenure there. It’s been fun getting to know Milligan more the last few football seasons. I meant what I wrote a few weeks ago about him building a strong program. The Tigers are gonna be great sooner than later.
Morgan softball coach Jason McBay was one of the first coaches I met after starting my job. He’s always been gracious about doing interviews and answering other question via text. The same goes for Morgan football coach Bill Malone. McBay and Malone have been two of my favorites to work with since my very first week on the job.
I’ve known Morgan baseball coach Merritt Ainslie since that first year, too. I appreciate the openness he’s always shown. I think I’ve crashed more of his practices for interviews than any other coach.
Anne Stamps and Aaron Paul have coached Morgan soccer the whole time I’ve been here as well. Mother Nature and COVID-19 robbed me of many opportunities to cover their teams the last two years but I enjoyed every game I attended.
Last but not least, I gotta talk about Morgan basketball. Those teams were always the ones I could count on to get deep into the playoffs every year. One or both of them would always make it a few rounds into the playoffs.
They were led by Jamond Sims and Joshua Reeves most of the time I’ve been here. They had their teams well-established by the time I started covering them but they never made me feel like I was an outsider checking in after years of building, even though I was. Sims coached the only championship team I’ve covered and Reeves got close a couple of times. Same goes for now-girls coach Timothy Roop. I will always look back on my Morgan basketball experience with fondness.
These coaches and more all made my job relatively easy. I’ve rarely had to work with little information or interviews because our schools have hired such great people to lead their teams.
I thank you all for allowing me to do my job the right way. My questions were often direct (that’s the only way I know to do this journalism thing) but I was always rooting for your teams’ success.