By Gene Stanley/Correspondent
An Etowah County institution is gone.
Last Monday (June 17), Glencoe High girls basketball coach John Blackwell resigned his coaching and teaching positions during an Etowah County Board of Education meeting. On Tuesday, he was hired as teacher and junior high boys basketball coach at Sand Rock High School.
“(The Cherokee County Board of Education) called me about 10 p.m. and told me I was voted in,” he said. “I was really hoping, after stepping out on a limb, that I wouldn’t get turned down. That would’ve been a mess.”
Blackwell told Glencoe principal Charlton Giles of his plans ahead of time.
“Coach Blackwell is very professional in everything he does,” Giles said. “I have the greatest respect for him, as a man, as a teacher and as a coach. He’s done a great job for Glencoe and it’s sad to see him go.”
Blackwell was known as one of the area’s premier coaches at Glencoe, amassing a 370-161 record in 18 seasons. His first year at GHS was the 1995-96 season.
“Thirteen years ago, a job came open (at Sand Rock) and I didn’t pursue it,” he said. “There won’t be another 13 years, so I decided to take it.”
Blackwell played for hall of fame coach L.C. Dobbins at Collinsville, so was well versed in the playing side of the game. When he arrived at Glencoe, he had another hall of famer to learn from in Donny Pruitt.
“Coach Pruitt was extremely helpful, from the time I was hired,” Blackwell said. “There are definitely two sides to any game, and playing it doesn’t prepare you for coaching. Even after he retired, I still ran tough decisions by him because he is one of the most knowledgeable basketball people around.
“Even about this decision, I talked to coach Pruitt more than I did anyone. That’s how much respect I have for him.”
Only three of Blackwell’s squads did not qualify for the state playoffs. Under his guidance, the Lady Yellow Jackets won eight county titles, 10 area championships and made it to the Northeast Regional Tournament nine times. His 2008-09 team reached the Final Four.
Giles said he hopes to have Blackwell’s replacement lined up before the July Board of Education meeting.
Know that Blackwell’s decision is nothing about Glencoe but more about his family and about driving time.
Living near the Cherokee County line, Blackwell can reach Sand Rock High in about 10 minutes, compared to 30 miles of mostly two-lane road to Glencoe.
And a junior high job doesn’t take the time as a varsity job does.
“I met with Lisa (Bates, the Sand Rock girls basketball coach) and Brian (Mackey, the boys coach) and told them that I wasn’t going to Sand Rock to take a varsity job,” Blackwell said. “I’m going there to teach. It’s the right time for me and it’s the right time for my family.”
Blackwell’s daughter, Makenzi, is 10 years old and he wants to enjoy watching her play. He’s already had the pleasure of coaching his oldest daughter, Victoria.
Also three of Blackwell’s nephews attend Sand Rock, the oldest of which is about to enter the eighth grade.
“It’ll be great to coach them,” Blackwell said.