It’s not all that unusual for a championship team to lose its coach the following season.
That coach is proven and has a higher resume if he chooses to move on.
But the program he leaves behind still has high expectations. So when boys basketball coach Jeremy Freeman left Central Coosa to return to his alma mater as the coach at Benjamin Russell, it only made sense for the Cougars to hire from within.
Richard Bell, who has been at Coosa for more than a decade, is the new man in charge after being moved up from the middle school team, which he has coached successfully for the last 11 seasons.
“We probably lost 15 games in 11 years and had about five or six undefeated seasons,” Bell said. “Once coach Freeman left, it just made sense that I get the job. It was a natural transition because I know these kids and I’ve taught them all this time.”
Every varsity player for the Cougars played under Bell at the middle school level and while Freeman was with Coosa, he and Bell had a good working relationship.
“We worked together a lot,” Bell said. “We had practiced with each other and strategized with each other. There’s a lot of stuff we did on the same basis, so there’s not much to change. It’s really not a big transition for me or the guys.”
Bell graduated from Lee Montgomery before joining the Air Force where he took up a basketball career. He played for the Air Force national team in Japan and after leaving the military, Bell graduated from AUM where he got his start teaching.
“I always wanted to be a coach and I wanted to teach,” he said.
Bell coached at the varsity boys team at Reeltown from 2007 to 2009 and led the Rebels to the regional semifinals. But Bell lives in Alexander City and his wife teaches in Alex City Schools, so when the Coosa job came open 11 years ago, it made sense for him to work closer to his home and his family.
While Reeltown has always been known for its football teams, that isn’t the case at Coosa where it’s clearly a basketball school. The Cougars have won multiple state championships, including the most recent one in Class 2A to end this season. But Bell has spent a lot of time in the system and under some great Coosa coaches so he’s ready to keep up that tradition.
“It’s really not pressure for me,” Bell said. “Once I moved up here, I knew what Coosa had. Coach (Joe) Belyeu started the tradition and Freeman kept it going. That makes it easier. All you really have to do now is the fundamentals and foundations for how that was built.”
While Bell is obviously the coach first and the leader of the Cougars, he believes the best way to coach up a team is to build relationships with them first and foremost.
“My coaching philosophy is I believe if the kids love you, they’ll play for you,” Bell said. “I joke with them but when it’s time to be serious, I’ll be serious. They never take it personally because I develop that relationship with them before that in the classroom and in practice. We, as coaches, gotta work for them and once you build that relationship, they’ll do whatever you ask of them.”