‘Student of the game’

Published 8:46 pm Tuesday, January 1, 2013

ECHS head basketball coach Earlando Courtney won a state championship in Greensboro. Now he is working to do the same in Atmore.

It’s hard to say goodbye to a first love, just ask Escambia County High School basketball coach Earlando Courtney.

The former University of Alabama walk-on wide receiver chose to play football, but has had a successful career coaching basketball, even leading Greensboro High School to a state title in 2010.

“Everyone thought I would make the transition to coach football,” Courtney said. “I liked basketball better than football, but I was 6’2” without a jump shot.”

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Courtney calls himself a “student of the game” of basketball and what he lacked in talent in the game he made up for with hard work.

“I had to learn how to box out and position my body,” he said. “It has made me a better coach.”

His first coaching assignment came as an assistant at A.L. Johnson High School in Thomaston for the 2008-2009 season.

After the season he began applying for open math teaching positions at schools that also needed a basketball coach. He was hired at Greensboro.

“I don’t know if they needed a basketball coach or a math teacher more,” he said.

In his first year at the 3A school, Courtney’s team went 6-16, but improved the next season to a 28-6 record and the title.

“I had a lot of good guys on the team,” he said. “We played together, jelled as a team and went all the way.”

Courtney has similar aspirations this season with a 7-5 Blue Devils squad, who last lost two weeks ago to B.C. Rain and has rattled off five straight wins including the county tournament title.

He said he’s starting to get comfortable with the team in his first year at ECHS and has figured out some things with personnel.

“I’m the kind of guy with every season I want to win it all,” he said. “You only have to win seven games to win a state title. As far-fetched as it sounds that’s how it is in high school basketball.

“My goal is the blue trophy,” he said. “I always want the blue one.”

To help the varsity team in the future, Courtney has revived a freshman team to “close the gap” between a good program at Escambia County Middle School.

“It’s just a way to get some kids involved,” he said. “They’ll come in knowing the system and be able to use their ability when they reach the varsity level.”