EBS coaches, players must move onPublished 11:01am Friday, March 11, 2011
When the Tallapoosa County Board of Education voted 3-1 on Monday to close Edward Bell School, it shut down one of the most successful Class 1A basketball programs in Alabama.
The Bears, both the boys and girls teams, routinely put together winning seasons and were fixtures at the regional tournament. Last year, Mitch Joiner’s boys had Birmingham buzzing after Edward Bell captured the state championship. Last month, Nancy Shealey’s girls fell one game short of earning a trip to the Final Four.
Now Joiner, who has been at Edward Bell for 13 years, Shealey, who has spent 32 years at the school and nearly 20 of those as a coach, their returning players and fellow students must find a new school.
“It was a pretty somber day,” Joiner said. “It wasn’t a surprise because they had been talking about it for years and it had gotten serious the last two, but it’s sinking in now.
“I guess they pushed it back as long as they could, but when you don’t have the numbers or a lot of money, it’s hard to keep going.”
Shealey said she was “disappointed” with the announcement. She said not having a school basketball team will be a big blow for the community.
“There’s not much to do in Camp Hill, but basketball was the thing to do,” Shealey said. “It’s going to take away a source of entertainment for the kids and for the citizens who came to the games to support them. It takes a big part of the town away.”
Joiner echoed that sentiment.
“The community showed their emotions,” Joiner said. “It’s tough on the people here. There are only a couple of businesses, but they rely on the teachers and students that come every day.”
Superintendant Philip Baker said the majority of Edward Bell’s students would go to Dadeville and some would enroll at Reeltown. Joiner said he hates that he won’t get to continue coaching them as Bears, but he’s glad they’ll get to keep playing.
“There are going to be a bunch of kids without a home team,” Joiner said. “The people in the community will come watch the games, but it won’t quite be the same. Once the emotions calm down, we’ll talk to the kids and help them make a decision.”
“I was really looking forward to a bright future and a quick turnaround next season. The whole team was coming back and we were hungry to make another run at Birmingham. It was a great feeling last season.”
Joiner, who won 1A Coach of the Year in 2010, said he has spoken with a couple of schools and hopes to stay in coaching. Shealey said she will likely just continue teaching and give up her spot on the sideline, at least for next year.
“The kids are understandably pretty sad about the situation,” Shealey said. “I’d been coaching some of these athletes since seventh grade and while I don’t know where they’ll be going, I know they’ll do a good job.”