After six seasons at the helm for the Daleville Warhawks basketball team, head coach Blake Garner resigned from his position on May 26.
Garner began coaching Daleville basketball in 2011 as an assistant coach and took over as head coach in 2014. During that time his Warhawks went 109-60 as a head varsity coach with four Area Championships and two Elite 8 appearances. As a JV basketball coach, his teams went 39-10 and Daleville went 74-20 during Garner's time as an assistant varsity coach. Overall, Garner's record as a JV and varsity head coach and assistant coach was 222-90. Garner is also a longtime assistant football coach at Daleville, a position he resigned from in November of 2019.
Garner said that a number of different factors played into his decision to step down as a coach.
“Back in July my father passed away, so I went all of football season and didn’t really have time to deal with all of that, because I’m executor of his estate,” Garner said. “Luckily I have two older sisters that did a fabulous job going through football season and most of basketball season handling all of that.”
Garner said that when he resigned from his position on the football team he had planned to continue on with a singular focus on teaching and basketball, but he had a change of heart.
“I could have kept going with basketball – and at the time I was going do that – but as time has rocked on I just didn’t want to be a coach of one sport knowing that it could open up a spot for (athletic director and head football coach Desmond) Lett to be able to hire a coach that could coach football and something else.”
Garner said that while it was a tough decision, especially knowing that he could potentially have ended his career as Daleville’s winningest basketball coach in the future, his priorities have changed since the death of his father.
“That would have been something that would really have been a goal for me a few years ago,” Garner said. “The goal’s kind of changed after the death of my father, though.”
Garner was named the 2019 Dothan Eagle Basketball Coach of the Year and he said that his father was very proud of that honor and it means a lot to him that his father was able to see that before he passed.
While Garner will step down from his coaching duties, he still plans to teach history at the reopening Daleville Middle School.
“The main goal now is to help get things going at the middle school,” Garner said. “My first 10 years at Daleville was nothing but middle school. Also I want to be a better teacher than I have the last five or so years because it’s been harder for me to juggle teaching and coaching as I’ve gotten older. I can concentrate on the classroom right now.”
Garner first came to Daleville in 1999 as a history teacher and moved to Carroll for one year before returning to Daleville the following year and has been there ever since. Garner coached middle school basketball until 2008 when he stepped away from coaching originally.
“I never thought I would coach basketball again,” Garner emphasized.
In 2011, former Warhawk coach Troy Turman approached Garner about being his assistant coach. Garner eventually accepted and has been coaching ever since.
“Being Coach Turman’s assistant and the players we had and the runs we had were big for me,” Garner said. “We really shared a lot of the same goals and aspirations. He wasn’t afraid to bounce things off of me and I do the same things with my assistants. They had input like I was given.”
With Garner as the head coach, Daleville had five players earn Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State honors including point guard. Those players included point guard Robert McGirt in 2014, forward Jaylyn Hinton in both 2015 and 2016, guard Kainan Pouncy in 2017, and center Shemar Dixon in 2019 and point guard Tomar Hobdy in 2020. Those five players were the five he pointed to as the athletes he’s coached that stand out to him most.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings because all of the players have been important to me but those guys really stand out,” Garner said. “Every one of them are special and we’ve had a lot of good players in those nine years.”
Elite 8 appearances and 20-win seasons stand out but Garner said his 2020 group will also stay with him because they were “overachievers.”
“I love the fact that we overachieved last year,” Garner said. “There were three or four games that we lost that we could have won and that’s the difference in being 21-7 instead of 18-11.
“Anytime you make deep playoff runs it’s going to stand out but the losses haunt me more than the wins stand out. I really think there were a few years where we had teams that I think were good enough to make it to the final four, too.”
Garner said that the cupboards in the Daleville basketball program are not bare and that was important to him, as well.
“I think they have a really good shot at making a run (next year) and that’s what I put in my resignation, that the cupboards are not bare,” Garner emphasized. “I never wanted to leave something when it’s in bad shape. I think they can go a long way and the thing about them is that they are going to give you everything they have.
“They are going to fight and scrap and claw and that’s what I love about them.”
While Garner will be stepping away from coaching for the time being, he isn’t calling it a career just yet.
“I’m just trying to catch my breath,” Garner said. “I guess that’s the best way I can put it. I still want to coach, yes, but I need to catch my breath. I’m not saying I’m retiring from coaching but for right now I’m stepping away.”