Messenger file photo by Gary Wells
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The Ole Ball Coach is back in Rainbow City.
Longtime local high school basketball coach Donny Pruitt, who enjoyed a successful two-year run as head coach at Westbrook Christian, is back as the school’s boys head coach.
From 2015 to 2017, Pruitt (pictured above) guided the Warriors to a 56-11 overall record, two area championships and consecutive berths in the Class 2A Northeast Regional Tournament semifinals.
Pruitt shared that he stepped down in April of 2017 due to family health issues and felt he needed to focus his energies in that area. Over the past few years, however, Pruitt found himself being pointed back towards coaching basketball. He had opportunities to return to coaching over the past few years but felt that it was either not the right position or at the right time.
“Everybody has bumps in the road, we had quite a few bumps for a year or so,” said Pruitt, who is a member of the Etowah County Sports Hall of Fame. “But it seemed like the Lord was working with me and I felt that He wanted to me come back and start coaching again. A few weeks ago, [Westbrook Christian Principal] Mrs. [Cindy] Greer called me and asked if I would be interested in coming back. Me and my wife talked about it and prayed about it, and it felt like it was time.”
Pruitt’s coaching resume is impeccable. As coach of the Glencoe High boys from 1990-2002, he posted an overall record of 252-91 and averaged 21 wins a season. His Yellow Jacket teams won a record eight consecutive Etowah County Basketball Tournament championships from 1993-2000, eight straight area championships from 1994-2001 and won 20 or more games every year from 1993-2002. Pruitt’s Glencoe squads were the only boys basketball team that played in the Northeast Regional Tournament for its first seven years from 1994-2000 and eight of the tournament’s initial nine years from 1994-2002.
Up until 2002, the Glencoe boys won more Northeast Regional Tournament games (10), played in more regional games (15) and played in more regional finals (seven) than any other basketball team in the state. In addition, Pruitt’s teams were ranked in the state top 10 from 1992-2002. Pruitt was selected as Etowah County Coach of the Year in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002. He was named Class 4A Coach of the Year in 2000.
Pruitt coached the North team in the Alabama High School Athletic Association North-South All-Star Basketball Game in 2000. He earned his 300th career coaching win in January of 2017. He currently has 308 career coaching victories under his belt.
Pruitt noted that he knows most of the seniors on the Westbrook basketball team from his previous tenure and is familiar with several other younger players from coaching or teaching their siblings or parents. He met with his current players earlier this week.
Pruitt has already hit the ground running in terms of filing out the 2021-22 schedule.
“For about three straight days, I’ve done nothing but call other coaches,” he said. “The only county schools that we’ll play are Etowah, Coosa Christian and West End, so our schedule is not quite what I’d like for it to be.”
Pruitt acknowledged that Class 2A Area 12, which also includes Sand Rock, Spring Garden and Sacred Heart Catholic, is one of toughest in the state.
“Everyone lost some players. We have only two [starters] coming back, and Coach [John] Blackwell at Sand Rock is in a similar situation. I think Spring Garden is graduating three seniors, so it should be competitive.”
In addition, Seth Ford, whom Pruitt replaced as Westbrook boys coach in 2015, is returning as the school’s girls basketball coach.
“We’re thrilled to have both coaches coming back,” said Westbrook athletic director and head baseball coach Matt Kennedy. “Both have proven track records, and that goes a long way for me and says a lot for what directions are basketball programs are headed. I think Coach Pruitt will do an outstanding job with the boys program and Coach Ford will do the same with the girls.”
Another factor in bringing both coaches back was their knowledge of Westbrook’s mission as a Christian school.
“it’s not about wins and losses; at the end of the day, it’s about creating great people,” said Kennedy. “Both are high character men who will be great role models for our young men and women.”
Westbrook Christian Principal Cindy Greer said that words could not express her excitement about the addition of Pruitt and Ford to the current ranks of Westbrook coaches.
“When you take those two coaches along with Matt and [head football coach] Drew Noles, I think that we are beginning to have the Mount Rushmore of coaches. I’m not saying our other coaches are not of that quality but talk about proven and successful coaches. These are men who not only understand how to coach their sport but understand how to develop young men and ladies to Godly young people. They’re taking out motto of training young warriors for Christ and putting into action day by day.”