Introducing the new head Ram
The Best Years: Gibbons compiled a 73-18 record in his last three years at Morgan County, delivering the Class AAA boys hoops powerhouse its first state championship after the 2013-14 season. He also guided the Bulldogs to three straight region titles along with an Elite Eight appearance in 2012 and a Sweet 16 spot in 2013. He also simultaneously coached the Lady Bulldogs from 2010 to 2013, leading them to back-to-back Elite Eight appearances and a region crown.
The College Years: Gibbons took on his first college coaching job when named Florida Atlantic University’s assistant coach under former head coach and NBA player Michael Curry. He spent his time there on the recruiting trail and also honing in on developing FAU’s post players.
Back to (High) School: Starr’s Mill High School in Fayetteville, Georgia was Gibbons’ first high school head coaching stop after four years at FAU. In his lone season there, he led the Panthers to a 15-14 record during the 2018-19 season, along with a 7-5 mark in Region 3-AAAAA. Starr’s Mill advanced to the Class AAAAA state tournament’s Sweet 16 round, losing 52-39 to Warner Robins.
The Accolades: While at Morgan County, Gibbons saw 12 total all-state selections (boys and girls combined), 16 combined all-region selections. These include Georgia Southern star Tookie Brown who was named Mr. Georgia Basketball the Georgia Sportswriters Association and the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Class AAA Player of the Year.
The Bio: A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Gibbons began his collegiate playing career at the University of Alabama-Huntsville before transferring to Berry College and finishing at Auburn-Montgomery where he graduated with a BS in Education in 2001. He earned a Master’s of Education with an emphasis on physical education from Auburn University Montgomery in 2002. His wife Tanya is a teacher at Alcovy High School and the pair has two daughters, Christa and Brea. Prior to serving as Morgan County’s head coach, he spent time as head junior varsity and assistant varsity boys coach under veteran Donald Harris.
COVINGTON, Ga. — Vincent Byams went into the search for the next Newton boys basketball coach well aware of the expectations people had for this hire.
Folks at Newton, starting with Byams himself, wanted someone who was tailor-made for the kind of atmosphere and culture the Rams’ athletic director wants to set. Meanwhile, fans in the Covington and Newton County community wanted a splash hire (not just in name only) — a quality coach with a proven track record for developing state championship contending programs.
In Charlemagne Gibbons, the newly appointed Newton boys basketball coach as of Tuesday night, Byams believes he went 2-for-2.
“He's definitely both,” Byams said. “Coach Gibbons is a great fit for us, and he’s a home run hire for the job. His experience, his knowledge of the landscape of high school basketball in Georgia, it all speaks for itself. People across the state know what he brings to the table.”
Shortly after Gibbons' hire was approved by the Newton County School Board Tuesday night, Gibbons took to Twitter to express his excitement.
Byams said he plans to give Gibbons the chance to meet his new players Wednesday afternoon. Gibbons is coming to Newton after spending a year at Class AAAAA Starr’s Mill. Before that, he had a four-year stop as an assistant coach at Florida Atlantic University.
But Gibbons is best known across Georgia for what he did during his 9-year run as head coach Morgan County. The Montgomery, Alabama native is credited by many as the architect of what has become a Class AAA basketball juggernaut, as he coached the Bulldogs to their first state championship in 2014 — the same time the state was largely introduced to the talents of Georgia Southern star Tookie Brown.
Gibbons also made school history by simultaneously coaching the Morgan County boys and girls squads to state quarterfinals appearances in the same season.
Asked why the Newton job was one that made him want to cut short his stay at Starr's Mill in Fayette County to just a year, Gibbons acknowledged that coming to Covington would be somewhat of a homecoming for him, not to mention a move he’s always wanted to make.
“Well, I really started my coaching career in middle school basketball right here at Indian Creek. That was my first job in Georgia,” Gibbons said. “I was actually supposed to come (to Newton) as an assistant back then, but things moved for me right away from Indian Creek, and Newton was a program and a job that I’d just always kind of kept an eye on. Even being at Morgan County for 10 years, you know, it’s right there between Covington and Madison. I was close enough to still admire the program.
“Coach (Ron) Bradley and Rick (Rasmussen) have obviously done a great job here, and I always knew that Newton had a great brand.”
You don’t have to listen very long to Gibbons talk to know that he’s well versed on Newton Rams basketball tradition — and not just the names we’ve come to know over the last couple of years. With both he and his wife having taught in Covington, he’s also no stranger to the tight-knit community’s overall climate and culture.
All of these things made pursuing the Newton job a no-brainer for Gibbons.
“You throw your name out there and apply, and just see what happens,” he said. “First of all, it’s a great foundation. You’re not walking in, creating a following. It’s a great fan base that’s enjoyed watching some great players over the course of time. You’ve got Ashton (Hagans), JD (Notae), Isaiah (Miller), but before that there’s Derrick Henry, Shane Henry who also played at Virginia Tech and Kantrail Horton and so many others.”
Gibbons’ praise for the area’s basketball prowess doesn’t just stop with Newton, though.
“The city of Covington and even Conyers has consistently produced some really, really good basketball products,” he said. “I was here when (Eastside and Iowa State standout) Marquis Gilstrap was an eighth grader, and he and I maintained relationship. You’ve got folks like him here who aren’t just about one kid, but helping the city’s basketball talent overall.
“And people don’t really know it, but there aren’t a lot of pockets around here like what you have in Covington and Conyers that produces the kind of players we have. People may not realize it — and I saw it during my time as a college coach and recruiter — but college coaches spend a whole lot of time in this I-20 corridor looking for players that can help their programs.”
Gibbons’ familiarity with all things Newton basketball and the local community in general really helped set him apart from a list of “about 20 to 25 quality candidates,” says Byams.
“He’s not new to Covington, so he understands the athletes he has in Covington and the culture here and the expectations fans have for the program here,” Byams added. Plus his experience. He’s a proven winner. He’s a guy who’s going to constantly work on his craft as a coach, and not just developing the basketball end of it, but developing young men — the academic piece of it. Making sure all our guys are going to graduate and have a chance to excel after high school.”
Byams said Gibbons so effectively conveyed his vision for Newton basketball to the five-person interviewing panel that although he was up against “a solid group of talented coaches,” and the plan was to give the three finalists two interviews, the hiring committee, to a person, agreed that they’d heard all they needed to hear to know the right man for the job was among them in Gibbons.
“He left no doubt with us,” Byams said. “In that first interview, after he just fully laid out his plan for developing this program and building on the excellence that’s already here and just getting to that next level, it was unanimous. We had another really, really good candidate who’s definitely going to go on to find another job here soon. Both of our other candidates, actually, are talented guys who will be fine, but like I said, it was unanimous after that first interview where everyone was saying, ‘Byams, why do we need to hear anything else? This is your guy.’”
Now, for Gibbons, the work begins, starting with a fast-paced, busy schedule that will help Gibbons get to know his new players and parents even as he prepares to put his personal spin on an already-successful program.
“We’re gonna focus on some of the stuff with the weight room that we want to do, and we’re going to get guys in the gym as much as you can inside the rules,” Gibbons said. “I don’t have a lot of hobbies, so I’ve never minded getting the chance to coach basketball from the time school got over with until it’s time to go home. So if our guys at Newton want to work, we’ll be in there working. If the guys take the challenge, I believe we can push past that threshold.”
That threshold, of course, being the barrier between the storied Newton program and an ever-elusive state championship — a piece of hardware the county’s oldest school hasn’t seen since 1964. Gibbons is well aware of how thirsty the program’s fan base is to see that change.
“Listen, the only thing that hasn’t happened here (since 1964) is winning a state championship,” he said. “If someone had won it before now, no one would be talking about it. But that’s one thing that really drew me here. If you’re a competitor, you want to do it at the highest level possible. Competing in Class 7A, you’re not just going against the best schools in the state, but also throughout the country. It’s well known that 7A is one of the toughest high school classifications in the nation.”
Gibbons said he wants to craft a Newton squad that plays fast and utilizes suffocating defense to jump start itself offensively.
“We’re going to defend,” he said. “That’s kind of a cliche, but if you’ve got really good talent, I think guys are gonna be excited when they continue to see how playing well defensively is something you can build upon everywhere you go, to college and beyond. If you’re struggling offensively and continue to play well defensively, it can really ignite things. So yeah, we’ve gotta play fast, turn people over, get out in transition, but we also have to execute too and use all the talent we have at our disposal.”
For Gibbons, that means mining out the roster to find or develop those potentially undiscovered gems.
“As a college coach recruiting this area, you get the chance to see a lot of these guys when they were younger, so you know there’s some talent there,” he said. “But you don’t know what you’ve got for sure until you get on the floor and guys get an opportunity. We want to give everyone in the program an opportunity. Maybe a guy didn’t excel before, but he’s ready to excel now. We don’t want to miss any talent.”
The future will reveal whether Newton’s hire of Gibbons is a make or a miss, but for now Gibbons says he’s simply elated at the chance to take things to the next level.
“I hope you hear it in my voice,” he said. “Like I’ve said, I’ve been around for a while. I’ve had an eye on this job, and when it came available, I’m just glad they thought I was the one for it. So we’ll see what we can do to make it stand up to the expectations.”