Win 500 ranks Allen among elite coaches
In the realm of personal accomplishments, New Kent High School basketball coach Ed Allen would rather have the spotlight shine elsewhere. He’ll say it’s his system and players that have made Trojan basketball one of the most successful programs in the state.
But for a moment last Friday during Senior Night and New Kent’s final regular season home game, Allen took center stage as players, fans, and friends celebrated his 500th career win.
With his daughter, Laurie Allen Weaver, announcing the occasion over the gym’s public address system, his son, Steven, a senior guard and this year’s leading scorer, along with the rest of the team escorted him to center court. There, Steven presented his dad with a game ball signifying the achievement. Allen humbly accepted and then resumed his coaching task.
“What’s special is having my daughter doing the announcing and my son presenting the ball to me,” he said after last Friday’s celebration.
Allen confesses to being unsure of his overall record. In his 32 years at the New Kent helm, there have been but a handful of losing seasons. Do the math and it averages out to almost 16 wins per year.
He seldom talked about his record in the weeks leading up to the milestone reached on Feb. 5 at Jamestown. Luckily, others in his family were keeping track.
“I don’t think I’m any special coach,” he said. “It’s having great players and a great system that’s been modified over the 32 years I’ve done this. We have a system in place that’s been successful although you’ve got to tweak it a bit to fit your personnel.
“I see other coaches copying some of what we do, and I think that speaks well for our system,” he added.
Allen is a New Kent graduate (1966) who returned to his roots after earning a bachelor’s degree and finishing a baseball career at William & Mary.
“When I was hired here in 1970, I didn’t know I was going to be the basketball coach,” he said. “I didn’t know much about basketball, but I learned and had good players.”
He became the school’s athletics director in 1975 and set about building sports programs through innovative money-raising efforts that included the Trojan 100 Club and a billboard advertising campaign.
His 2000 basketball team conquered Group A competition, going 26-0 to capture the state championship. Two years later and thanks to a burgeoning school population, New Kent moved up to Group AA, presenting Allen with a new challenge.
Last season, the Trojans captured a share of the Bay Rivers District regular season title and advanced for the first time to the Region I tournament. Now with a second district crown in hand, his team is poised for another state title run and a chance to equal the unbeaten status of the 2000 squad.
“The 2000 team only went six deep, but had probably the best player [Jamion Christian] to ever play at New Kent and five other seniors [twins Corey and Craig Patterson, Rondele Harris, Marcus Bey, and Byron Pollard] who had played together for several years and understood their roles,” Allen said.
The 2010 Trojan edition has more depth, but is also laden with seniors who have been competing together since freshmen and attending a series of summer camps to sharpen their skills.
“These kids are a special group of seniors,” he said. “They’ve got good chemistry, they enjoy playing with each other, and you can see it on the floor.”
Rumors have been circulating that Allen, 61, plans to step down after his son graduates this spring, but that’s not so, he said. For now, he has no plans to retire and insists he’ll be back as basketball coach next season.
“I still enjoy this,” he said. “I spend over 100 hours a week here at school. You’ve got to keep busy in retirement, and I don’t know what I’d do with myself or fill my time if I retired.
“You can only fish and duck hunt so much, and I already do enough of that,” he said. “It’s a great situation here, and I love the kids. Why leave it when you’re having fun?”