Ralph Denmark has been a part of Rockdale County basketball for almost a decade, picking up not only wins but relationships.
Both of those factors helped lead to Denmark being named Heritage's head basketball coach a little more than a week ago.
Denmark replaces two-year Patriot head man and former Heritage assistant Drew Williams, resigned in the spring, according to Athletic Director Chuck Landy.
After Williams stepped down, the job was posted online and made available nationwide, with a lot of candidates coming forward. After narrowing down the needs of the basketball program with the needs of the teaching staff, Landy and Heritage found their new coach as close by as possible.
"We were looking for the best basketball coach but needed it to be a fit teaching wise," Landy said.
While he is the fit Heritage was looking for, Denmark is also a good basketball coach, who has proved it both as an assistant and
head coach in Rockdale County.
Denmark was the assistant to Al Williams at Rockdale High for the last five years, helping the Bulldogs reach the state playoffs each year. In 2010-11 Rockdale went 26-6 and reached the Class AAAA state championship. The Bulldogs have also sent several players to Division I basketball programs in Denmark's time as Rockdale's assistant.
Prior to coming to Rockdale with Williams, Denmark also served as his assistant at Conyers Middle School from 2004-06, before going on to be the head coach at Edwards Middle School from 2006-08.
"We got to know him a little bit at Edwards, and we really respect what Rockdale has been able to do in basketball the last five or six years," Landy said. "We think he is fantastic."
Denmark has the same feelings for Heritage's athletes, who he has already put to the test.
"They have great kids over there, and I'm fortunate enough to go to a good situaation," Denmark said. "We're going to play a more up-tempo style of basketball than what they're used to, and to try to make the game a little more exciting."
The Patriots went 9-18 last season and 3-23 in 2011-12 while putting a young team on the court both seasons.
In 2013-14 Denmark will look to rely more on speed and an up-tempo pressure style of defense, something the Patriots players are already experiencing in summer workouts.
"The first day they were a little shocked by the amount of running we did," Denmark said. "They quickly jumped into it and embraced it."
A Similar type of conditioning is something Rockdale players embraced, helping them score an average of 68.6 points per game and finishing second in Region 2-AAAAAA a season ago. The Bulldogs and Patriots, though in different regions and classifications, will play twice a year being inter-county rivals. Both Denmark and his former players are looking forward to those matchups, as he found out when he told the Rockdale players he had been given the Patriots' job.
"It's going to be an exciting game," Denmark said. "I think the kids are looking forward to it. I still have a good rapport with a lot of the players, and they have my full support and help with anything they need except for two times a year."