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444 is very significant in the coaching career of South Atlanta coach Michael Reddick. It’s probably just as noteworthy as 100, 200, 300 and 400 because 444 is Reddick’s current number of wins at his position and the official mark of his second state championship.
When the Hornets dominated Swainsboro this past March in the GHSA Class AA title game, Reddick held the ‘big’ trophy again for the first time since the 2009 season.
Now with the celebrating complete, Reddick and his group of mostly new players are just days away from beginning the 2017-18 season, which will be the coach’s 20th at South Atlanta and overall.
In this edition of 1-on-1, Reddick speaks on many subjects, including how this year will be different from many of the others, what inspired him to get into coaching and what he was able to accomplish during his playing days.
Last season, the Hornets’ eight-year title drought ended. Where does this one rank compared to the first championship? Are they equal?
The one with [Derrick] Favors was expected. We had the nation’s top player so that one would have been a big let down if we lost it. This team came out of nowhere for everybody. I knew what we had. The coaches knew of the possibilities we had if everybody played right. It wasn’t anymore special but when you are not expected to win from the beginning it’s a little different.
This season will be your 20th as the South Atlanta head coach. What are your thoughts on that fact?
I can’t believe it. Last year is when I thought about it. In one spot, you feel apart of the community. I’m teaching folks whose parents I taught–that is really when it hit me because people will come to me and say ‘Hey you taught my mama.’ It’s a little different but I enjoy it because it’s where I want to be.
What inspired you to become a basketball coach?
When I stopped playing, I wanted to get into something that was involved with the youth and kids I thought I could have an impact on. There were a lot of things I didn’t know when I was growing up playing basketball and wanted to kind of get in the same situation with kids who kind of grew up like I did.
So with the same amount of success in the next few seasons, you could join the 500-win club.
We’ve been fortunate here. There are a lot of good players in the neighborhood. We average about 23 wins a year. Going into each year, you never know what you’re going to get. We could go into this year and come out with 10 wins or come out and have another great year and come up with 30 wins. All we know is put the hard work in, do the best you can and let the chips fall where they may–that is my philosophy.
Last season, the team only lost one game, and that came against a team from South Carolina. How do you go about repeating that success or coming close to it?
It’s going to be real tough because we had only 10 people on the team and seven of them were seniors. We lost Tyler Thornton, the Player of the Year in 2-A. Devonta Pullins was First Team All State and plus other key components. The only two people who really played for me last year was my guard Jalen Stegall and Dondre Barnes. They have to be strong leaders. We are working hard, getting stronger, gaining confidence. We never know what is going to become of the season. We are going to make sure we stay focused on it and all we can control is what we can control.
(Thornton is continuing his playing career at Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Alabama and Pullins is suiting up for Livingstone College in North Carolina.)
With this team here who knows what is going to happen. There are a lot of strong teams we have to play against. Our schedule is tough. We will just go from there. Most of team will consist of sophomores but whoever we put on the floor is going to have to represent South Atlanta in the best way. I’m excited about it. We are not supposed to be good this year.
I’ve said it before and it might seem like bragging, but in 13 of the last 16 years we’ve made it to the No. 1 position at some point in our classification during the season so we are going to be game for other teams. They know this is going to be their best chance. My guys got to be able to respond every night. We can’t go out like that because everyone knows we are normally a top team. I’ve never lost this many players in one year so for me this is something new, something exciting. I want to see what happens with my young kids. I think we can be solid it just matters how much time and work it will take to get there.
(The Hornets’ first regular season game is November 16 at home against Drew.)
Before you became a coach, you played at Stetson University from 1980-84 then competed overseas in a number of countries for 12 years. What was that experience like?
I loved my time overseas. I won at least five national championships, which was the most important thing to me. I’ve always been about winning. The stats and stuff are not the most important thing to me. I always wanted to win.
Favors, who was drafted third overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, is still in the league and playing for the Utah Jazz. What are your thoughts on how his career is going even though he is a part of a throwback lineup?
At one point, he was mainly going to be power forward. Then they asked him to move to the center spot. Then [Rudy] Gobert showed up and now they want him to make sure he works his way back into the power forward spot and improve his jumpshot a little more because now in the NBA the power forwards are becoming stretch power forwards. It’s an old-school lineup. He’s such a big, strong impressive looking guy. I’m proud of what he’s doing.
I didn’t get to see Favors play for you at South Atlanta but I did see his NBA opponent Malcolm Brogdon, formerly of Greater Atlanta Christian, compete against your team earlier this decade. Did you see all of this coming together so well for him after his tenure at Virginia?
When he was on the court, he was normally playing the strongest, finishing the most, getting the important rebounds and making the difficult shots. When you look at him you just say ‘He is just good’ but you don’t realize how good he is. I think he kept us from a state championship or two when he was there.
Then he went to the ACC, became Player of the Year and played defense and everything. Now he is in the league and I saw him make a couple of nice plays. I’m just impressed with the young man and proud of what he did. Did I think he was going to be in the NBA? I didn’t see it. I just saw a solid, strong player. As dominant as he was and a winner, I don’t know why I didn’t see it.
With that said, are you more of an NBA or college guy?
They are kind of neck and neck. I never thought about it. I love the college tournament. I love to see the hustle that is in college. In the pro game, the skill level is so high and even the defense is such a special thing but it’s hard to see. I like both games. I want to watch the NCAA tournament because I know it’s going to be full out. The NCAA Tournament is probably more fun for me than the NBA but with the NBA you have certain players you root for, certain teams you root for. I’ve been a Laker man all my life since when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was there. If they are coming on, I’m watching but they are still a couple of years away.