In A League of Their Own

The Bay area's coaches stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Terry Curtis 

Fall may be over, but the deep-rooted Southern obsession with all things sports doesn’t have to be. In fact, along with cooler temperatures and gingerbread lattes, winter also finds us continuing to enjoy the clash of our favorite teams, the tantalizing aroma of concession stand delicacies, the deafening roar of raucous crowds and the trademark sideline passion of our favorite coaches. All of these things unite in pure Americana form to win our hearts. (Ok, and maybe our tastebuds, too.)  

Here in the Gateway to the Gulf, we love our sports. And for many Mobilians across the city, there’s something extraordinarily special about our high school athletics in particular. Whether it’s football, basketball, volleyball or baseball, we can’t seem to get enough. There’s just something nostalgic about the experience of cheering your favorite local team to victory, sitting under those Friday night lights, while sipping on a choice beverage, side-by-side with friends and family. You might even say it’s legendary.   

And nothing says “legend” more than a coach who is willing to go the extra mile for his or her players, team, school or entire athletic program. You know the kind. These are the men and women who truly make a difference on and off the field. They’re the ones whose inspiration and influence extend far beyond the hallways, locker rooms and dugouts, whose encouraging speeches still linger in the minds of their former players and whose fans will be talking about them for decades to come. Some of them might even be buying dresses and tuxedos out of their own pockets so that their student-athletes can attend prom and homecoming. But we’ll leave it up to you to decide who that could be. 

We’ve seen these heroes at the games. We’ve heard tales of grandeur. We’ve even watched them on local TV news sports reports. But how well do we really know the coaches of Mobile? When was the last time we marveled at their dedication, devotion and drive? Their love for the game and their commitment to student-athletes is not only noble but certainly worthy of praise and recognition. 

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So, in the tradition of excellence and honor, MB just couldn’t let the year end without celebrating 10 such local legends. Some of them are “still in the game,” figuratively speaking. Others have retired and moved on to new adventures. Still others are only with us in spirit as we keep their memories alive in our hearts and minds. But no matter where they are or what they’re doing, we can say with resounding confidence that, along with the entire city of Mobile, we are proud to affectionately call these men and women “our coaches.” 

Terry Curtis 

Football Head Coach (1989-1993) Shaw High School

Football Head Coach (1993-1999) Murphy High School

Football Head Coach (1999-present) UMS-Wright Preparatory School

Athletic Director (2001-present) UMS-Wright Preparatory School

A North Carolina native, Coach Curtis attended Murphy High School in Mobile as a teen and would go on to attend Auburn University in 1969 on a baseball scholarship. Curtis pitched for the Tigers and graduated from Auburn in four years with a health degree in Physical Education and Recreation (HPER). In 1973, he returned to the Port City and took a job at B.C. Rain High School as an assistant football and junior varsity basketball coach, a position he would hold until 1980. He would subsequently go on to coach at Murphy for the next nine years. Altogether, Curtis has been coaching for an astonishing 50-plus years and has served 34 of those years as a head coach. His love for students and his passion to see them excel in all areas of life — no matter their age or background — is at the very core of his coaching philosophy.  

“I want all of my athletes to be able to say that I coached them fairly,” he says. “From the best player to the worst, from the one who would be a starter to the one who would be a scout, I want them to know that I will be the same and fair with all of them no matter who they are. In discipline and in relationships, I’ll be the same with everyone.” 

Former UMS-Wright Bulldog Jay Prosch, an offensive tackle and middle linebacker, says he owes much of his success in football and in life to that very coaching philosophy. Prosch played college ball for Illinois as a fullback, later transferring to Auburn in the same position in 2012 to be closer to his mother, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer. He then went on to play professionally in the NFL as a fullback for the Houston Texans from 2014-2017.  

“My time at UMS-Wright set me up for my future both in football and as a young man,” he says. “I owe the school and Coach Curtis a lot. You didn’t want to be on his bad side, that’s for sure! As a young player, I feared him, but as I got older and spent more time on the team, I respected him, admired him and wanted to win for him. To me, that’s the perfect model of what a coach is supposed to be: one who you respect, but also love and want to win for. Coach Curtis goes out on a limb for a lot of his players. He really did that for me and for my family, especially when it came to helping me advance to the next level, learning how to talk with recruiters and handle various situations. You might say he took on a fatherly role. Along with UMS, he instilled things in me that I would use later in life.”    

Preparing athletes like Prosch for football and for life is the name of the game at UMS-Wright and Coach Curtis makes this the very heartbeat of everything that he does.   

“I want to make sure that our teams and coaches are prepared,” he says. “I believe the preparation is just as important as playing the game itself. I think it was Joe Paterno who said, ‘The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.’ I make sure that we don’t leave anything unturned or overlooked before a game.”  

C.D. “Lefty” Anderson 

C.D. “Lefty” Anderson 

Football Head Coach (1963-1969), Murphy High School 

Described by those who knew him best as “a coach’s coach,” Alabama High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame member C.D. “Lefty” Anderson was the record-setting head football coach for Murphy High School who, during his 14-year tenure with the Panthers, compiled a 95-38-5 record. The late coach’s legacy of hard work and honesty will undoubtedly last for generations. He would go on to serve as Murphy’s assistant principal for over 10 years, and later as the athletic director for Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) for over eight years. But, for UMS-Wright Head Football Coach Terry Curtis, Anderson was much more than just a coach. He was more than just an administrator. He was a leader and mentor who instilled values and principles that would eventually wash into Curtis’ coaching career several decades later.   

Despite Curtis’ phenomenal accomplishments and achievements — not the least of which include eight state championship wins and a 271-57 record — he knows that he wouldn’t be who he is today without the influence of men like Anderson.  

“My high school football coach Lefty Anderson [among others] had a big impact on me,” he says with a hint of fond remembrance in his voice. “I’ll never forget him. He was at my first press conference when I got my first head coaching job. I ended up being on a lot of committees when I became a coach and he was the reason I got involved in a lot of stuff.” 

A Coffeeville native and Jackson High graduate, Anderson played football for Livingston State before serving two years in the Army and eventually becoming the head football coach at Frisco City. It was there that he went 53-22-4, later taking the head coaching job at Murphy in 1963. In doing so, Anderson was essentially transitioning from one of Alabama’s smallest schools to one of its biggest, a rare feat by any standard, even in today’s high school coaching world.

Curtis says Anderson taught him to always pay attention to technicalities and specifics, no matter how trivial they may seem. “Not only did he teach me about details and what those details were, he also taught me why they were important. From him, I learned that all the little things mattered, no matter how big or how small.” 

Andy Robbins 

Andy Robbins 

Baseball Head Coach (1988-present)
St. Paul’s Episcopal School 

They say baseball is America’s national pastime, and there may be no one who appreciates the sport more than St. Paul’s Head Coach Andy Robbins. Arriving in 1987 by way of Faith Academy (also his alma mater) and Mobile Christian, Robbins holds a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education (K-12) from the University of South Alabama, and is proud to have developed countless collegiate and professional athletes over the years. If there’s one word he would use to describe his life and coaching career, it’s “blessed.” 

“My dad was one of my biggest heroes and mentors,” he says. “I vividly remember coming home one day in the second grade and my dad had a brand new bat, glove and cleats for me. Little did I know, that set the tone for the rest of my life and what I would be doing for a living. My dad coached little league. I had two brothers and my dad coached all of us. Now, when I come down on the first day of practice season as a coach, and it’s a beautiful day outside, and I’ve got all of my guys out there, and the field is gorgeous, I just think to myself, ‘How blessed am I to get to do this for a living?’ To see students put in the work and effort on the baseball field and then excel there and in life, that’s just a blessing beyond measure.”  

With 25 area championships, 30 post-season tournament appearances and a 903-179 career win/loss record, Robbins is well-acquainted with the thrill of victory. But, like any good coach, he knows that at the end of the day, the real victory is found in watching students succeed.  

“I’ve been blessed from day one with great kids and athletes,” he says. “Over my years of coaching, they haven’t changed much. They’re still the same hardworking, dedicated kids. They want to please you and to do well. When you get to spend every day with these guys, there’s nothing like it. We have a retreat every year. We go off somewhere and practice hard. We also use that retreat to talk about the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the game. We do devotionals together in the evenings. And when they come back to see us years later, it’s incredible. When my kids come back, they don’t talk about wins and state championships. These are the times they remember long after they’ve left St. Paul’s.” 

One of those hardworking, dedicated kids was former St. Paul’s student and outfielder Matt Green. Now a successful local attorney, Green attended St. Paul’s from 1980-1992 and remembers when Coach Robbins first came over from Faith Academy. 

“I was in the seventh or eighth grade at the time and my earliest memory is having Coach Robbins as my P.E. coach,” he recalls. “He was like no other coach I ever had. He always carried the [baseball] rulebook around in his back pocket. Anytime he knew the umpire made a mistake, he would go out there and read the rulebook to them. He knew the game like the back of his hand. And he got so many calls in his favor, sometimes even in hostile environments! I didn’t play varsity until my sophomore year in 1990. St. Paul’s had been in the wilderness with baseball up until then. We were just a little local team, not the biggest or the strongest. We were always the underdog. But Coach Robbins instilled in us this idea that we could compete with anybody. We weren’t physically talented, but he emphasized the fundamentals of the game. We would literally practice fundamentals for hours on end. I can remember my hands bleeding from constant batting practice.” 

Green says Robbins not only taught life lessons with baseball but that his ability to psychologically motivate his players was unparalleled.     

“I think he coached his teams the way he played baseball himself: with a chip on his shoulder. He was small and scrappy and he coached his teams that way. I didn’t know many other kids our age who were so driven and inspired that they would call their own practices. But we did it all the time. It was kind of like ‘The Sandlot.’ It was all about the love of the game. We didn’t ask his permission. We did it because we wanted to win for him. He truly instilled in us the values of hard work, mental toughness and being able to do what you do no matter the results. Life gives you curveballs all the time and you might swing and miss. You have to be able to handle that. I remember striking out during a regular season game that we lost. The next day at school with coach, it was like it never even happened. He told me to keep my head up and he said we would go back out and try again.” 

As you may have realized, baseball, for Robbins, is much more than just a sport. It’s a way of life.  

“Baseball teaches these players how to handle adversity. There are unexpected things that come up during a season and it’s all about how you handle those things. You’re going to get a bad bounce, a ground ball, what you think was a bad ball. How are you going to handle that? We want them to be prepared.”   

Harold Clark 

Harold Clark 

Football Coach (1974-1994), Vigor High School 

A two-time State Coach of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award-holder with memberships in both the Alabama High School Hall of Fame and the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame, Harold Clark is often remembered for being a leader and a father figure to his players. Although he passed away from cancer in 1996 at the age of 61, his unwavering love for Vigor and Mobile will forever live on in the hearts of his family, friends, former players, coaches and colleagues. It’s no exaggeration to say that when Clark took the reins of the Wolves football program in 1974, he found it to be one jumbled and disorganized mess of utter chaos. So, with all the grit, drive and determination that made him who he was, he went to work. His 1982 Wolves won 10 consecutive games and made it to round three of the playoffs, triumphing over all expectations and countless adversities. 

But, the team wasn’t finished. Clark caught lightning in a bottle once again in 1985, winning 10 additional games and, by 1986, had elevated Vigor to new heights of glory. Entering the semifinals for the first time, the Wolves finished 9-4, emerging victorious on Legion Field for the 1987 6A State Championship. It was apparent that Coach Clark had indeed taken the Wolves from the valleys of disgrace and defeat to the mountaintops of victory and success.  

Former Wolves tight end and linebacker Robert Lorenzo Brazile Jr. says Clark was just as much a leader, disciplinarian and coach as he was a father figure to every player. 

“He was my defensive coordinator when I met him in the ninth grade,” he says. “I came to Vigor in the tenth grade and he moved me from JV to varsity overnight. He was a leader, a friend and a father. You gotta remember, when I was first going to Vigor, there were only about five or so Black students [on the team] at the time. The only time I felt like I had a safe haven was around Coach Clark. He was always monitoring the lunch wave. I would go over and sit with him and talk with him and he got to know me and broke the ice. He looked after me and he wouldn’t let anyone pick on me or bother me. He took me in and was like a watchdog over me.” 

Little did Brazile know, this was the start of a relationship that would come full circle decades later. After college ball at Jackson State University from 1971-1974 as a tight end and a career in the NFL with the Houston Oilers as a linebacker from 1975-1984, he returned to Vigor High School and took a coaching position alongside Clark. 

“I was able to come back [to Vigor] and work with Coach Clark’s wife at the middle school and then go over and coach with Coach Clark in the evenings,” he remembers. “It was like I had a mother and a father at the same school! I knew the game and he knew that I knew it, so I gave some input for some things with the defense. I saw some talent there. I absolutely enjoyed working with him.” 

Brazile retired from coaching in 2005, but, like so many, will always hold Coach Clark and Vigor High School close to his heart. 

Ben Harris 

Ben Harris 

Football Head Coach (1988-2003), Mattie Thomas Blount High School 

Ever had someone warn you not to do something because all the odds would be against you? That’s the story of Ben Harris and Blount football. If you’re wondering who cautioned him not to take the head coaching job in 1988, it was, well, everyone. The Leopards had never won a playoff game and there was also the frustrating fact that, on day one of practice, only six players showed up. This did not discourage Harris, though, who would quickly pave the way for Blount to become one of the top programs in 5A football during the 1990s. He might have learned a little something about perseverance during his youth. A former Alabama State University quarterback from 1975-1978 and Toulminville High School graduate, Harris set countless athletic records during his college days and was even on his high school’s all-star basketball team. 

After brief coaching stints with Clayton High School and Baldwin County High School, he received the phone call that would change everything. Blount was on the other end of the line. They were dangling a job offer that probably wouldn’t have tempted most coaches. You see, the Leopards held the record for most games lost by a 5A team in the last 10 years in Alabama. (Not exactly the sort of thing you have inscribed on a trophy.) Harris had his work cut out for him. Fortunately, hard work and discipline were his specialties. He took the job and quickly went about creating a standard of excellence amongst his players, encouraging their academic accomplishments in the classroom, and developing their character and attitude on and away from the gridiron. Legend has it that he even drove a school bus through Prichard on Sundays, picking up his players and taking them to church.       

Former Alabama Crimson Tide running back Sherman Williams — who played professionally in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys as a running back from 1995-1999 and was a member of the Super Bowl XXX team that defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers — has nothing but fond memories of his days with Coach Harris.  

“It was a great experience. We won a state championship and he was truly our leader,” he says. “In Prichard, during that time, the economic status and environment was not productive, but he turned the program completely around. By my time as a senior in 1990, we had made it to the championship. Coach Harris was the ultimate competitor, and his willingness to share and give of himself to the bigger cause and to the community was unmatched. I admired his willingness to win and his competitive spirit. And he didn’t take shortcuts. We do a scholarship in his honor, The Ben Harris Cultural Achievement Award Scholarship, every year at the Palmer Williams Group Annual Iron Bowl Legends Benefit Gala.”  

Becky Dickinson 

Becky Dickinson 

Girls Volleyball, Basketball and Tennis Head Coach (1970-1998), McGill-Toolen Catholic High School 

Becky Dickinson may have lost the battle to pancreatic cancer in January 2020 at age 83, but that didn’t stop the AHSAA Hall of Famer and North Alabama graduate from successfully fighting to lift women’s sports to a level never before seen in our state. The legendary coach from Russellville, Alabama would go on to become renowned as an outspoken advocate for female equality in high school athletics. Dickinson first shook up the local coaching world in 1970 by taking charge of the girl’s volleyball team at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School. In a pre-Title IX era, the very thought of women sweating and competing against one another was almost laughable. But, this was all about to change, especially if “Mrs. D” had anything to say about it. Dickinson established a coaching career there that would include building the school’s volleyball and basketball programs — the Dirty Dozen and the Lady Jackets — both of which proudly carry on her legacy to this day. Meeting the challenges of her time head-on, she literally built the volleyball team from the ground up, as the boy’s basketball team had called dibs on the gymnasium, forcing the girls outside and into the dirt. Never one to succumb to a setback, she instead drew inspiration from the experience and nicknamed her team “The Dirty Dozen.” The name stuck and, over 50 years later, the rest is history.  

Current Bayside Academy Head Volleyball Coach Ann Schilling, who played for Dickinson, says Mrs. D was like a second mother to her. 

“At times it was intimidating to play for Becky, but she always made sure that you felt important and worthy. I didn’t play for the first three years, but I never felt unimportant because of that. I played for her as a senior and it was so rewarding. She was tough, but good tough. You couldn’t get in trouble at school without her knowing and you didn’t want to disappoint her. I have so much respect for her to this day.” 

A wife, mother, teacher, friend, competitor, mentor, leader, neighbor and coach, Becky has been eternally immortalized as the Founding Mother of Alabama high school volleyball by those who love and remember her. 

Ann Schilling 

Ann Schilling 

Volleyball Coach Head (1987-present), Bayside Academy 

Teacher. Mentor. Community hero. Record-setting coach. ASHAA Hall of Fame member. These are just a few titles Ann Schilling has deservedly earned over the course of her impressive career. One title she wasn’t expecting to add to that list, however, was Cancer Warrior. Nevertheless, the former McGill-Toolen athlete and current Bayside Academy volleyball head coach says the diagnosis that came in 2018 was not only something that she needed, but that it would mold and shape her into the woman she is today.  

“There was a part of me that was getting to where I was placing too much emphasis on state championships. I was letting that be a little too much of my identity. When you come face-to-face with something like [a cancer diagnosis] — mine was stage four — and don’t know whether you’re going to live, it changes your perspective. I told God, ‘I’m ready to come if you’re ready for me. But, if you’re not, tell me what You want me to do. Let me be more of who You want me to be.’ I had my values misplaced at the time. I was living on a lot of success and the diagnosis was very humbling. I look back now and realize those were some of the best days of my life. When you live like you’re dying, it puts everything in a whole new light.”

Schilling, who has led her Lady Admirals to 27 of their 30 state championships, took what most people would have deemed a crushing defeat in life and used it as kindling to spark the fires of motivation for herself and for her team. 

“We preach all the time with this team about being intentional and working hard, being on time and being committed. We really emphasize being accountable, not only for ourselves as individuals, but also for each other. I think the culture word we have put into effect here is ‘love.’ Love for each other and a lot of love in this program. I think that’s where things have changed a little [in light of my diagnosis.] I am a little bit more transparent with my players now, whereas before they didn’t see the tender side of me. Over the last five or six years, they have been able to see that.”     

Though Ann has admired countless leaders and mentors throughout her athletic career, she is particularly grateful to her sister Lou Ledford, who coached Ann during grammar school, as well as former McGill-Toolen Volleyball Coach Becky Dickinson. 

Darrell Walton 

Darrell Walton 

Girls’ Basketball Head Coach (1998-2021), LeFlore High School 

Longtime Mobile native and Davidson High School graduate (class of ‘75) Darrell Walton is proud to call the Port City home. A student of the United States Sports Academy, Walton first attended Fort Valley State University in Fort Valley, Georgia on a basketball scholarship, an experience that would shape his future in many ways. Although he is currently a graduation coach at Williamson High School, counseling and advising students on college plans, career trajectories and life decisions, he spent the majority of his career at LeFlore High School as the head coach of the girls basketball team. It was here that he took the Lady Rattlers to multiple Final Four competitions and area and state championships, winning several, including two of the latter (2009, 2016). With a 577-185 win/loss record, the Rattlers thrived under Walton’s coaching, going 34-0 during the 2016 season, making them the only unbeaten AHSAA boys or girls team that year. Growing up in a fatherless home, Walton understands firsthand how essential mentorship and encouragement are in the lives of student athletes. 

“My father wasn’t there, but I had some mentors around me at the Boys & Girls Club. Big brothers, uncles, next door neighbors — that’s what we had back then in the area and time period I was growing up in. This was the 70s. There were lots of opportunities to participate in sports, especially basketball and football, which were my gifts. These mentors really motivated me and kept us all in line. Education was key and my grandmamma and mamma stressed that. Once I became a coach, I was motivated to give back. I have been to some of my student’s weddings, signing days and graduations. I get so much joy out of not only being a coach to these kids, but a father figure as well.” 

With all of the cultural and generational changes that have taken place over the last several decades, Walton stresses that adaptation and a willingness to refine your coaching philosophies are critical. 

“You have to be a disciplinarian, but also a caring person. Kids today come to coaches with different perspectives and backgrounds than the kids of the 70s and 80s. For example, a kid might come to me without a father in her life, having issues at home. She’s overseeing her little siblings. She’s going to school and juggling homework and maintaining her grades. Or you might have a kid say that they can only come to Saturday morning practice for the first 45 minutes. Why? Well, there’s only one car in the family. ‘I can come for 45 minutes, coach, but I got to give the car back to Mamma so Mamma can go to work.’ Now I have to make a choice as a coach. Do I want her for 45 minutes or do I just tell her to stay home? Or sometimes it’s, ‘Coach, I can’t come or I would have to bring my two little sisters.’ Then bring your two sisters. You have to be creative as a coach now and adjust to the cultural changes and trends.” 

Tony Scarbrough 

Tony Scarbrough 

Girls Softball Head Coach (1986-2022), Baker High School 

Girls Softball Head Coach (July 2022-present), Foley High School

No one loves a comeback story more than American-sports fans. (Cue “Rocky” theme song.) Granted, Tony Scarbrough isn’t an Italian boxer from the westside slums of 1970s Philadelphia. But, he is one of the most revered and respected girls high school softball coaches in the state of Alabama. And, when those girls need all the grit, toughness, tenacity and spunk of a relentless prizefighter required to compete at the championship level, they look to Scarbrough. After serving 36 years as the skipper for the Baker High School Honeybees, many Mobilians thought Scarbrough was done. And why not? The Vigor and South Alabama graduate had dominated the competition, garnering over 1,734 wins, seven state championships, 28 area championships and appearances in 22 state tournaments, placing Scarbrough in the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame with an astonishing overall career record of 1,734-559. Three of his players had even gone on to earn the highly coveted statewide Gatorade Player of the Year Award. There certainly would’ve been no shame in hanging up the towel there. 

But like so many of the greatest sportsmen, fighters and coaches of our time, Scarbrough realized that he had another round left in him. Returning to the coaching ring in July 2022, about a month after stepping down at Baker, he replaced Deidra Davis as the head softball coach of the Foley High School Lions. 

“I coached a summer team called Tony’s Angels,” says Scarbrough. “We traveled around for like 17 years. The best player I ever had was Metta Christensen. She played high school ball in Foley. She was a phenomenal player. When she found out I was retiring, she called and said, ‘Coach, you’ll love the facilities over here [at Foley.]’ And I’m thinking, ‘Facilities? What’re you talking about?’ At Baker, I basically had to build the field myself. So, I go over there and it’s fantastic. I eventually interviewed with the principal and got the job.” 

Legends never actually retire. And, for Scarbrough, who started out coaching boy’s football, basketball and baseball, the joy he gets from seeing his student athletes excel on and off the field has kept him coming back time and time again. 

“There’s three things I want my players to remember: I want them to listen and learn. Always try their hardest. And have fun. They always notice that ‘fun’ is listed last. That’s because if they don’t do the first two, I don’t care if they have fun. And ultimately, I always want to treat my players fairly. It’s important for them to play by the rules. I want them to play hard and play ethical. Play fair, play hard and give it your best.” 

Former Honeybees shortstop Lacey Bosarge was one of Scarbrough’s three Gatorade Players of the Year. She now spends her days as the Girls’ Softball Head Coach of the Theodore Bobcats and attributes much of her success in coaching and in life to the lessons that she learned as a player during her time with Scarbrough. 

“He taught us all about sportsmanship on the field, but also taught us life lessons as well. Now that I’m coaching, I try to mimic some of the things that he taught us. He always pushed us and gave us the opportunity to hold ourselves accountable. He never allowed us to settle for anything less than stellar. He pushed us to excel in the classroom as much as on the field. The standard was set very high as was the competition level amongst our team. When we went to tournaments, he wanted to play hard teams, even if it meant losing. He knew that losing would make us better.”

J.D. Shelwood 

J.D. Shelwood 

Boys’ Basketball Head Coach (1981-1992), John L. LeFlore High School 

Men’s Basketball Head Coach (1992-2021), Bishop State Community College 

After officially announcing his retirement in 2021, longtime Bishop State coach and Mobile Sports Hall of Fame member Johnny D. “J.D.” Shelwood is taking his rightful place amongst the ranks of local living legends in the Port City. The Coastal Alabama hero and sports icon spent 26 years as the head coach of the boy’s basketball program at LeFlore High School (and later Tomlinville), where he led the Rattlers to state titles in 1986 and 1989, racking up over 400 wins and 10 state tournament appearances. During both of his championship seasons, Shelwood was named State Coach of the Year. 

He bid high school coaching farewell after the 1991-1992 season, but soon accepted a position as head men’s basketball coach at Bishop State Community College. He would spend the next 29 years of his remarkable career here, amassing over 300 collegiate victories and multiple honorary titles, including Alabama Junior College Coach of the Year (1993), Alabama Community College Conference Southern Division Coach of the Year (1996; 2016) and even managed to pick up Birmingham Tip-Off Club “Glen Clem” Junior College Coach of the Year (1996). In 2018, he was inducted into the Alabama Community College Conference Hall of Fame. 

Shelwood, who has also coached football and girls track, says that it was always evident, even from an early age, that he would be a coach. 

“I’ve always loved sports and I sort of became associated with that from a young age. My mother told me early on that I could be a coach and she was right. I was four or five years old when she told me that. When I graduated from Dillard University, I thought I would be a physical therapist. But it didn’t work out, so I decided to go into teaching and coaching. Coaching always came natural for me. I have always thought that coaching brought out the best in people. And that was something that I wanted to be a part of.” 

The honors and titles are nice, of course. But for Shelwood, it truly is all about the kids. 

“I love the kids. It’s the biggest reason that I got into coaching. I also thought I knew a little bit about sports, so I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to learn the things that I had learned. I feel like I kind of did that. After 30 years of coaching, I looked at myself in the mirror one day and said, ‘You are a coach.’ And I’ve been coaching ever since.” 

Second to the kids is a passion for the sport itself and all of the life lessons that it teaches. 

“Basketball helps these students understand that — in the game and in life — it’s not over until it’s over. You don’t let the fat lady sing until it’s done. You play as hard as you can play for as long as you can play. The end result is that sometimes you will win. But sometimes, you will lose. You have to be able to take the good with the bad. And you learn from the mistakes that you have made along the way.”

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