COVINGTON, Ga. — So now that we’ve had some time to sit with the Newton boys basketball coaching hire, here comes what some may consider a bonafide basketball hot take.
You ready for this one?
Coach Charlamagne Gibbons may be the splashiest high school sports coaching hire Newton County’s ever seen.
Stay with me here.
When Newton athletic director Vincent Byams talked about the kind of coach he wanted for a program widely considered as arguably the best in Georgia to not win a recent state championship (since 1964).
Byams said the school needed a hire that was not only competent but attention-getting. A coach who’s been there, done that. Gone where Newton’s aspired to go. One who could not only coach the Rams toward exemplary win-loss records, but could also reach and mentor the upcoming generation of Newton ballers.
So when Gibbons Was revealed as the guy, it was an eyebrow raiser for sure. Although Gibbons had a somewhat lackluster season at Starr’s Mill, win-loss record speaking, most people understand that basketball at the Fayette County school and hoops at the house that the legendary Ron Bradley built are two completely different things from tradition to available talent.
So here’s why Gibbons is Newton County’s most head-turning hire — a few of these corroborated by people who have lived around Newton County sports and Georgia high school basketball long enough to not have their credibility questioned.
He’s got splash hire pedigree. When talking about Gibbons, it’s tempting to hurry up and rush to the state championship he won at Morgan County with Tookie Brown, the Georgia Southern graduate and star. But let’s not forget that Morgan County wasn’t some moribund program before Gibbons took the reins. Gibbons spent several years as the understudy to Donald Harris, a legendary coach in his own right who spent 20-plus years shaping the Bulldogs program and laying down a championship foundation. Harris got close to the promised land, but couldn’t quite get over the hump. When Gibbons did so, he did it while standing on the shoulders of a solid mentor.
Add to that the fact that he’s coached one of the best high school players Georgia’s seen in recent years, and the fact that he’s one of very few, if not the only, coach hired in this county with substantial Division I coaching experience (correct us if we’re wrong). That happened in his four years as an assistant to former NBA player Michael Curry during Curry’s time as head coach at Florida Atlantic.
He’s a proven championship-winning head coach. You’ll have to go back to 1956 and a guy named Milton McLaney to find the last time a state championship winning head coach was hired at the school. Newton lured McLaney from Monticello after McLaney coached Monticello to a football state championship after the 1955 season. McLaney went on to coach the Rams for 11 seasons. He never repeated his state title feat in Covington. But many will tell you that it’s decidedly harder to win a state championship in football than basketball.
Gibbons won a state championship at Morgan County in 2013 and then promptly moved on to Florida Atlantic. To prove that Gibbons’ program-building success was no fluke, Gibbons’ successor Jamond Sims came over from Luella and coached the Bulldogs to a couple more state crowns. But it was Gibbons who took the baton from Harris — a coach who did everything but win a state crown — and helped build Morgan County into a legitimate state power.
He’s no stranger to the area. Morgan County is close enough to Newton County and Covington to allow a coach to be familiar with the talent the area produces. But Gibbons’ hire gives you one better. His first basketball job was right here in Covington at a local middle school. So when he speaks to the area’s talent, he’s not just reading from a list of guys he found through a Google search. He has a bit of a first hand look at what kind of hardwood talent exists in this area. He knows many of the coaching professionals who have come through or currently operate out of Newton County. Not only is he a not a stranger to the area, he also knows what this community wants out of its most successful basketball program. Nobody has to teach him that. He has no learning curve in that regard, and that’s priceless.
All told, it’s a recipe for potential great success. It’s hard to imagine a better hire for the program considering where it’s been and where it currently is. Who knows what the future holds, but based on what we currently know, Newton probably couldn’t have drawn one up better.