Albright, Southern set to mark No. 400


December 04, 1992|By PAT O'MALLEY

Tom Albright has been virtually married to Southern basketball for almost 30 years and been a father figure to hundreds of young men.

Tonight in Harwood, the man who has dedicated his life to Southern and its kids as a math teacher and basketball coach could become the first coach in any sport in Anne Arundel County to win 400 games.

When Albright's Dawgs take the floor at 7:15 tonight against Great Mills of St. Mary's County, it will be more than just a season opener.

Albright starts his 28th campaign with a career record of 399-221, including an unprecedented four state boys championships (1973, '81, '83 and '86).

At the start of this season, the only coach close to Albright is Meade's Butch Young, who stands at 372-197 in 27 years at Brooklyn Park, Severna Park and the past 16 at Meade.

The late Dick Hart was 330-294 in 30 years at Andover, and John Brady is 318-54 in his first 15 seasons at Annapolis. Those are the only county boys basketball coaches with 300 wins, but after tonight, Albright may be standing alone.

It was in March 1980, for a feature story in the Arundel Living section of The Baltimore Sun, that Albright told me, "Down here it's a family affair. We win for everybody in the Southern community."

From the time little tots can dribble the basketball in Harwood, they are playing in the recreation feeder system started by Albright nearly 30 years ago. The little guys grow up and fulfill the dream of their childhood -- to one day wear the blue and gold of the Southern Bulldogs.

Albright once said he wants to be remembered as "more than a coach," and there is no question that he will. He is to Southern what Morgan Wootten is to DeMatha and what Dean Smith is to North Carolina: an institution.

If his team puts him in position to win tonight, I'm sure his mind will start racing through the past 27 years.

He may want to start right on his bench with longtime assistant Ted Gott, who was Albright's first student manager in 1966 and later became his loyal assistant.

Albright once said, "Ted was one of my worse critics, so when he got out of college, I decided I would make a coach out of him."

Pardon Albright if his mind wanders from tonight's game to the 1967-68 team led by Joe Wilde. That marked the beginning of a tradition at Southern -- running from buzzer to buzzer.

"In January of '68, I told the kids we were going to press full court even though we had only six players," Albright recalled.

"At practice that day we ran five kids against 10 JV players the entire workout. We won the next game, 81-49, and we've been pressing from buzzer to buzzer ever since."

That first state championship at Cole Field House in 1973 also is unforgettable to Albright.

The '81 state champion will bring back memories of Pee Wee Smith and Tyrone Barnett, and '83 will bring thoughts of Gary Mullen, Sherman Owens, Terrence Barnett, Troy Brown and Carlos Adams.

In '86, names such as the late Geno Spriggs, Sean Salisbury, Jeff Harrison, David Boston and Joe Norfolk immediately come to mind.

You can be sure that, if Albright gets a chance to do a little reminiscing, he will remember them all. The Southern kids have been his kids, and, as he once said, "When I'm finished coaching, I want people to know that I put everything I had into this community.

"You can't get rich teaching, but a community can get rich when you take an interest in its youths."

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