By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Cullman County’s coaching carousel is taking its latest spin.
Nearly nine weeks since Wade Knight stepped down as St. Bernard’s boys basketball coach and six since Greg Boatright did the same at Fairview High, the latter is taking the former’s place.
Interim athletic director William Calvert officially announced the Saints’ splashy new acquisition early Thursday morning.
“I think you can probably call it a home-run hire for St. Bernard,” Calvert said. “I think he’s just the perfect fit for us. We’re excited and feel fortunate to be able to hire someone of his caliber.”
Boatright brings a great deal of experience to a boys basketball program that has risen slowly but surely in recent years, wrapping up the 2012-13 campaign with a respectable 13-10 mark.
In 14 seasons at Fairview, Boatright compiled a 251-170 record, claiming three county championships, two area titles, one sub-region victory and an Elite 8 appearance along the way.
Before joining the Aggies, his alma mater, Boatright spent his first 17 years in the business at the junior high level, coaching at Welti and Baileyton, which eventually became Parkside.
After attending a small school like Welti — where he also played basketball — from first grade to his freshman year and then roaming the bench at his first two stops, Boatright is confident he can smoothly transition from Class 4A to 1A basketball.
“It’s different, but I think it’ll be a good fit for me,” he said. “I’m excited about it, and I appreciate them for giving me the chance to come out there and coach. Every person I’ve met at St. Bernard has been very welcoming, and that makes a person feel good.
“I’m just going to go in there, give it my best effort, try to get the boys on the same page and see where we can take it.”
With Sean Moriarty and JaDavian Roland, the bulk of the Saints’ offensive production the last few seasons, both lost to graduation, Boatright’s first roster will be filled with plenty of raw talent. He was on hand for a couple of the team’s spring practices last week, though, and walked away impressed by the boys’ attitude and effort.
“It doesn’t matter that you’re a small school, that you can’t compete and do your best,” the 31-year coach said. “That’s what I told them up front — all I want is your best. The rest of it will work out.”
Boatright will serve as a physical education instructor and also man St. Bernard’s boys middle school, junior varsity and varsity squads. Having enough kids to field all three teams — which the Saints haven’t always been able to do — will greatly help build continuity, according to the coach.
“Look, I don’t care if you’re a 6A school. It’s not just about being the Einstein of offensive and defensive strategies,” Boatright said. “Fundamentals need to be developed for anything to work. That’s where it all starts.”
Between Knight’s departure and word that Boatright was contemplating retirement, Calvert reached out to his same-aged friend to gauge his interest. The pair’s relationship goes all the way back to middle school — Calvert was at Good Hope, Boatright at Welti — continued when they both attended Jacksonville State University and picked back up when they eventually coached against each other — Calvert was at Cold Springs and Cullman Middle School, Boatright at Baileyton/Parkside.
“We’ve always had a real good relationship as far as respect goes,” Calvert said. “He was always a very classy competitor.”
Boatright is also familiar with St. Bernard headmaster John Tekulve, who coached at Cold Springs during the Saints’ newest addition’s playing days.
“When you get old, a lot of people know you,” Boatright said with a laugh.
The Saints still have two vacancies to fill following Knight’s resignation — AD and baseball coach. However, Calvert, who already coaches cross country and track and field, said he’ll continue fulfilling AD duties until this time next year.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.