By Chris McCarthy
After two years on Westminster Drive in Rainbow City, Donny Pruitt recently decided to shelve his whistle and playbook for good.
Pruitt tendered his resignation as Westbrook Christian boys basketball coach early last week to WCS principal Cindy Greer and assistant principal/athletic director Matt Kennedy.
In his two seasons at Westbrook, Pruitt guided the Warriors to a 56-11 overall record, two area championships and consecutive berths in the Class 2A Northeast Regional Tournament semifinals.
Upon his hiring as boys basketball coach in May of 2015, Pruitt noted that he and Greer agreed that he would serve as on a year-to-year basis so that his eventual retirement would not come as a complete surprise. Pruitt now feels that at age 62, he can no longer
commit to the heavy load of a full-time teacher and full-time coach.
“It got to the point where I realized that I couldn’t put those kind of hours in,” he said. “I wasn’t able to spend much time with my family and my wife was assuming a lot of the responsibilities that I needed to be doing. It basically came down to a matter of time.”
Pruitt said that the most difficult part of his decision was informing his coaching staff and players.
“I’ve got some really good guys on the team that I’m really close to, and a lot of them are coming back next season,” he said. “These kids do a great on the basketball court, but more than that, they’re really fine young men who will be great adults one day. I can honestly say that since I’ve been at Westbrook, I haven’t had a bad kid either in the classroom or on the basketball court. I also haven’t had one problem with a parent. They were very supportive, and I’m going to miss them as well.”
Pruitt is not sure whether or no he will continue to teach at Westbrook. He currently teaches chemistry, anatomy, biology, zoology and physiology.
Pruitt earned his 300th career coaching win this past January.
“It’s really not my win, because I haven’t scored a point or grabbed a rebound in a high school basketball game since 1973,” he said. “All that means in that I’ve had some really good players and some really good folks around me. I guess that I’m the beneficiary of that success. With a lot our teams over the years, we didn’t always have the tallest or the fastest or the quickest kids, but we always had guys who cared and worked hard and played with a lot of grit and heart and determination. So I wish that there was some way that I could have pulled every one of the kids that I’ve coached over the years and have them be a part of that moment.”
Pruitt took over the Warrior program prior to the 2015-16 basketball season. He replaced Seth Ford, who guided the Warriors to an overall record of 127-65 and currently is the boys basketball coach at Ashville High.
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 1994-200 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 and was inducted into the Etowah County Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
Kennedy pointed out that Pruitt’s reputation as both a teacher and coach preceded him.
“We knew what kind of teacher we were getting when we hired him, and then when we needed a coach, we figured why not get the winningest coach in the history of Etowah County. The kids brought into his program, and he did and excellent job. Coach Pruitt is not only a great basketball coach. He teaches boys how to become young men, and that’s what we’re going to look for in the next coach. We thought it would be hard to replace Seth, and it’s going to be hard to replace Coach Pruitt.”
Kennedy said that there is no timetable in the hiring process but he’d like to have Pruitt’s replacement in place sooner that later.
“We have [basketball] tryouts right around the corner, so we’d like to get something going in the next few weeks. We’re going to hit the ground running on this.”