Celebrating Basketball Coaches Who Have Impacted Players Beyond the Court

Well Played

Sports are outlets for fun and exercise as much as they are vessels for teaching some of life’s most important lessons. Basketball, especially, has a lot to offer young players in the way of navigating adulthood. For example, in basketball as it is in life, one really does miss 100% of shots not taken. Likewise, learning when to “pass the ball” and how to make smart, quick decisions will serve players well during moments of adversity. A good coach can lead a team to victory by points on a scoreboard; a great coach imparts wisdom on his players, rendering them victorious for life. What follows are profiles of some of the area’s most passionate high school basketball coaches featured alongside alumni players – young gentlemen who have taken lessons from their former coaches and applied them to life beyond the court.

By Olivia Halverson

Tyner Academy basketball coach E'Jay Ward and alumnus Trent Gresham

Photo by Sarah Unger

 

Tyner Academy

E’Jay Ward (left) has been coaching basketball for nine years, with five of those as the varsity boys’ basketball coach at Tyner Academy. “My passion and love for the game came from my dad,” says Ward. “My whole life has been centered around sports, so becoming a coach was only right for me.” Ward’s mission as a high school basketball coach is to prepare his players for the fifth quarter – life – through the game of basketball. While players are under Ward’s leadership, he encourages them to cherish the present and simply enjoy being a kid. “I hope to develop skills that my players can utilize off the court. There is more to life beyond the gym,” he says. “I aim to prepare them for every facet of life!”

Trent Gresham (right) graduated from Tyner Academy in 2021. He played basketball for Coach Ward for three years. During that time, Gresham learned many important life lessons. “Coach Ward cares, truly,” says Gresham. “He teaches the game with things that players can implement in real life. Most importantly, he’s always there whenever you need him.” 

3-Pointers for Life and the Game That I Learned from Coach Ward:

  1. Always have a next-play mentality. If you mess up, make the next move the right move.
  2. It’s not about how you handle the easy things in life, but how you handle adversity.
  3. It’s always bigger than you. You don’t live for yourself; you live for your name, your family, and everybody who supports you.
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McCallie high school basket coach David Conrady and alumnus Spencer Turner

Photo by Emily Pérez Long

 

McCallie School

David Conrady (right) has been coaching basketball for 32 years and has served as varsity boys’ basketball coach at McCallie School for four years. “I fell in love with the game at an early age,” says Conrady. As he got older, he began working basketball camps. “Having the chance to work with young people teaching a game I love makes coaching a perfect fit,” he shares. Conrady believes his mission and purpose as a coach is to use his platform to teach the spiritual life lessons found in sports. “I want my players to know that each of us is created in God’s image, with unique talents and abilities. We should use our talents for God’s glory and for the betterment of others.”

Spencer Turner (left) graduated from McCallie School in 2021. He played basketball for Coach Conrady for three years. “Coach Conrady always did his best to try and build team chemistry,” Turner recalls of his high school basketball days. “He would host a number of team dinners at his house so that we all had a chance to bond with one another. He really cares about his players on and off the court.” 

3-Pointers for Life and the Game That I Learned from Coach Conrady:

  1. Basketball isn’t everything in life. 
  2. You have to take responsibility when you come up short.
  3. Everything in life is earned through hard work and determination.
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Heritage High School basketball coach kevin Terry and alumnus player Will Allen

Photo by Emily Pérez Long

 

Heritage High School

Kevin Terry (left) has been coaching basketball for 22 years, 14 of which he has served at Heritage High School as the varsity boys’ basketball coach. Terry credits his passion for basketball in part to the Duke teams of the ‘80s and ‘90s and to Larry Bird, an American basketball icon who played for the Boston Celtics. “But my biggest influence had to be my mom,” says Terry. “She was the first to put a basketball in my hand, and has supported my passion for the sport ever since.” As a coach, Terry believes his purpose is to help players become the best versions of themselves. To have a winning team, Terry says, “you obviously need talented players, but a great team is made up of individuals who embrace being a part of something bigger than themselves. A group willing to work together is a powerful thing.”

Will Allen (right) graduated from Heritage High School in 2019. “I had the privilege of playing for Coach Terry for all four years of my high school career,” says Allen. “Coach Terry has many qualities that make him a great coach. Aside from his extensive knowledge and experience in basketball, he genuinely cares about his players and who they are as people.” 

3-Pointers for Life and the Game That I Learned from Coach Terry:

  1. Have patience, whether it’s in interactions with people or dealing with the stress of college. 
  2. Leadership is as important in the classroom and in your community as it is on the basketball court. 
  3. Learn to love the journey, not just the destination. 
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Photo by Sarah Unger

 

Notre Dame High School

Jonathan Adams (left) has been coaching basketball for 12 years, with five of those as the varsity boys’ basketball coach at Notre Dame High School. As a coach, Adams makes it a point to share his personal life journey with the young men under his leadership. “I share the things I have struggled with as a man and as a father, because I want them to be much better much earlier than I was,” he says. To Adams, a winning team is made up of players who possess the ability to sacrifice for their fellow teammates, to believe in one another, and to be accountable to each other.

Cal Price (right) graduated from Notre Dame High School in 2021. He played for Coach Adams for four years. “Playing for Coach Adams was easy because of how much he loves his players,” says Price. “He has a fiery spirit that was very motivating for us players,” he adds. “Jonathan Adams was the best coach I’ve ever had, and I just want to say I appreciate him more than he knows, and I will forever be grateful to him.” 

3-Pointers for Life and the Game That I Learned from Coach Adams:

  1. Family comes first, and your team is like a family.  
  2. Persevere through adversity. Basketball is about mental toughness and out-toughing your opponent and any adversity that comes.
  3. Determination is key. You have to work hard to achieve your goals.
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