New Gadsden City AD, coaches share vision for basketball programs

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By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

Gadsden City High School unveiled its restructured basketball program at a meet and greet on May 16 at the GCHS library, with community outreach as a major theme.
The Titans introduced former Sacred Heart Catholic School coach Ralpheal Graves (pictured above) as the new boys head coach, Jay Tinker as the new girls’ coach and longtime GCHS boys coach Reginald Huff as the school’s new athletic director.
Huff retired after 17 seasons as the only boys basketball coach in GCHS history with a record of 325-176, 11 area championships and five Elite Eight appearances. In 12 seasons as head coach at Litchfield High, Huff guided the Eagles to six area titles and six Final Four appearances, including state championship game berths in 1996 and 2002. As a player, he helped Gadsden High win the 1983 Class 3A state championship.
“I’m so glad to have the opportunity to be in a role to serve these two young men,” he said. “I know they’re going to do well, because we have good kids who will fight hard.”
In addition to lending support and guidance to the school’s coaches and student-athletes, Huff pointed out that his position requires reaching out beyond the school’s geo-graphical borders of South 11th Street and Black Creek Parkway.
“I think my strength is drawing in community support while letting the coaches do their jobs. We’re looking to put funds into their accounts so they can concentrate on coaching and not having to worry about fundraising. Right now, we don’t have the type of community support we need, but I think now with the new mayor (Craig Ford) and city government on board, I think it’s going to be a lot easier. My job is to bridge that gap with our athletics.”
Graves echoed Huff’s thoughts about the program once again connecting with the surrounding area.
“If we go out and meet these folks where they are, they’ll come to us. We have to get the community back to our games. We have to make ourselves visible as a basketball program in the community, not only [with] fundraising but volunteering, so people can see that we’re trying to build something here at Gadsden City.”
A graduate of Anniston High School, Graves built a sterling reputation in nine seasons at Sacred Heart with a 228-89 overall record and four state championships.
“I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think we were going to win state championships,” said Graves. “But in order to win those championships, we first have to build championship people. If we can do that, the championships will take care of themselves.
“The talent, the people and resources are all here, and I’m planning on Gadsden City becoming one of the best basketball programs in the state of Alabama. I understand that this program has never been to Birmingham (for the Final Four). Well, get ready, because we’re going to Birmingham.”
Graves stressed that the need to develop his players as young men is just as important as teaching them basketball.
“One day these kids are going to be someone’s husband and someone’s father,” he said. “When they leave here, we want them to be prepared for college, the military or the workforce. There aren’t a whole lot of other options out there that are positive, so we want our kids to make the right decisions after they graduate.”
A Gadsden High graduate, Tinker replaced Jeremy Brooks, who had coached the Gadsden City girls since the school’s inception in 2006. Tinker has been Brooks’ assistant for the past several years and has worked as a teacher and coach in the Gadsden City Schools system since 1998.
“So, I’m definitely not a new guy,” said Tinker. “I’m very excited and looking forward to working with Coach Graves. I feel like I’m a good fit for this position, because we’ve got 11 to 12 girls on the varsity who I’ve coached since the third grade, so I know them very well. We haven’t been to Birmingham since the first year (of the program), and we’re looking to get back. We’ve got a tough task ahead of us, but I believe we’ll be ready.”
Tinker acknowledged the sustained academic excellence of the girls’ program.
“The other day I was looking at the grades for the girls on the basketball team, and the lowest I saw was an 83. Most were in the 90s. Those are the things that we want to continue to do, because if these girls do what they’re supposed to do in the classroom, the rest will take care of itself.”
Tinker agreed with Huff and Graves about the need for community service to enhance the basketball programs.
“We’re going to come to your churches and help out with the painting and things like that,” he said. “We want to give folks a reason to come out and support us, both the guys and the girls.”
“I don’t think our search committee could have selected three better individuals to fulfill these roles,” said Gadsden City Schools Superintendent Tony Reddick. “One of the most important things about our athletic program is that we train our young men and women to be fundamentally sound. We teach them to be hard-working, responsible and respectful, and that winning will come with that. We’re very proud of where we’re going and we’re excited about the leadership that’s going to take us there. I think it’s going to be a great ride, and we’re hopeful that the community will join us on this ride.”

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