Albright's a class act, even as team loses

SIDELINES

March 07, 1997|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

The idea of cloning humans is scary, but I don't believe anyone in the community of Harwood would complain if Southern's Tom Albright were cloned.

Albright, the school's boys basketball coach for 32 years, probably has a couple more left. But it will be a sad day, not only for the school but for the entire county, when he retires.

No coach is more respected and revered by his peers than Albright, who represents all of high-school sports' good qualities. And way down yonder in Harwood, there's simply a love affair with a coach who really cares about kids.

The dean of county coaches is more than a basketball coach. He's a father figure with a huge family -- Southern basketball players and his beloved student body.

It was never more evident than Wednesday night in the Class 2A East semifinals after the Bulldogs were deprived of a second straight -- and 12th overall -- trip to the state final four by City, 61-53.

Standing in the hallway outside the gym, Albright hugged player after player, thanking every one for his effort, consoling those with tears in their eyes.

"I'm not disappointed in this team, because they gave me everything they had," he said. "It was a tough way for it to end. I really feel for them. It was a great group."

With 36 seconds left and Southern down 57-51, standout three-year starter Jeff Crandell, one of those kids who leaves his heart on the floor, fouled out. He had 21 points and 13 rebounds.

As he slowly, painfully walked to the Southern bench amid the Bulldog faithful's gracious cheers, Albright waited for him, tears in his eyes. The two hugged while a City player sank two free throws to ice the game.

The outcome were secondary to Albright, who had his back to the court. He was more concerned with saying thanks to a kid who gave him more total effort every time he walked onto the court.

"I told Jeff he got to Cole Field House last year, and it would have been nice to do it again, but to feel fortunate, because a lot of kids out there never get to enjoy the experience," he said.

Before the game, Albright was worried because his kids had played "our best game of the year" in Monday's 76-40 quarterfinal victory over Forest Park. He knew an encore would be difficult. But more than for himself, he wanted it for a team that had told him, "If we go down, we're going down hard" -- which they did.

Wins are important, and goodness knows he has the most in county history (464) and the most boys state titles (four). But Albright's top priority is putting kids on the right path to adulthood.

Their future and their becoming good people is of the utmost importance to him, more than any basketball victory.

A trip through his math and computer class reveals posters with inspirational quotes and goals. Being positive and productive are virtues he has taught over a lifetime without losing the fire.

The theme in his classroom is the same as his theme on the basketball court -- "You can't get rich teaching, but a community can get rich when you take an interest in its youths."

I'm not so sure about cloning, but it would be wonderful to devise a way to keep Tom Albright at Southern for another 30 years.

Sideliners

After its 77-67 victory over No. 10 Arundel (18-6) in the Class 4A East semifinals, No. 8 Annapolis is one win from its state record (boys and girls) 24th region title -- and 13th under coach John Brady.

The Panthers (20-5), who gave Brady his 16th 20-win season in 20 years, visit Calvert (20-4) at 7 p.m. today in the region final.

Annapolis took a 63-60 decision over Calvert in last year's semifinals. The Cavs' reached the game with a 76-60 semifinal victory over neighbor Northern (13-12) Wednesday.

In Class 3A, No. 7 Broadneck (21-4) seeks its second trip to Cole in three years, visiting No. 11 Dunbar in Baltimore at 4 p.m. today. The host Poets (17-6) are seeking a fifth consecutive state title, their second in a row in Class 3A.

Dunbar won 55-48 at Annapolis this season. County champion Broadneck defeated Annapolis twice (55-38 and 55-53) for the first time in school history.

Annapolis and Southern were the county's only boys teams to make it to Cole last year, and both lost in the state semifinals.

Have an idea for Sidelines? Call Pat O'Malley's 24-Hour Sportsline, (410) 647-2499.

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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