By Robert Richardson
One of Morgan’s favorite sons has recently been named the boys’ head basketball coach at Newton High School in Covington. Everyone who saw Charlemagne Gibbons coach in his formative years at Morgan County knew he was destined to do some special things in his chosen craft. He took a basketball program from very, very good to great in a short period of time and brought home the first State Championship in Bulldog history in 2014.
In a one-on-one interview with Gibbons, he told us, “A lot of people try to give me the credit for putting Morgan County’s basketball program on the map. That is simply not true. The history of the program had been put in place long before I got there. Reggie Ross and Donald Harris had highly successful teams that finished in the Elite Eight, Final Four, and played for a State Championship. I was able to have some great players and an even better coaching staff to take us over the hump. It’s that simple. You don’t have the success we had without the foundation already being there and having a great staff around you. I loved my time at Morgan County”
Gibbons started his coaching career in Newton County at Indian Creek Middle School before transferring to Morgan County where he spent one year as an assistant under the tutelage of Harris before the legendary coach retired. He took over the reins after that and never looked back.
According to our archives, Gibbons compiled an impressive record of 73-18 during his final three seasons here and made the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight while winning three straight 8-AAA Region Championships. Gibbons is well-known for having coached both the boys’ and girls’ teams for three years from 2010-2013. During that time, the girls won a Region Title and made two trips to the Elite Eight.
The veteran left for the college ranks after winning the Championship and coached under Georgia Southern and NBA legend Michael Curry at Florida Atlantic University for four years. He returned last season to the high school ranks and to Georgia as the head coach at Starr’s Mill.
It was pretty clear from his statements to us that it was a job that some might consider a dream job. “I’m really excited about the challenge. I started my career there (in Newton County) and thought it would be a job that I might consider if I ever got the chance. It’s been on my radar for a long time. What Coach (Ron) Bradley and Coach (Rick) Rasmussen have done there over the past 20 years has been amazing. I know a lot of people there and it’s close to Madison where I also have a lot of friends. Another thing that really interested me was getting our family all back together in the same school system. My wife, Tanya, will be transferring to Newton and our girls will be playing Middle School basketball this year where I’ll be able to watch them play. It was important to us that we were all on the same school schedule. She does such a great job of organizing all those kinds of things for us. It will be so much easier. I think what sold me though was how much the administration overall really seems to care about the kids. It seems to be all about that to them.”
The first African-American coach in the history of the program will follow a long line of highly successful coaches going back to Bradley’s first stint and only school State basketball Championship in 1964.
Bradley, with 1372 wins, is the winningest high school basketball coach in Georgia history, was followed by Richard Porter (over 500 wins). Then it was Milt Caffey, Billy Hendrix, Bradley again, and Rasmussen for the past 15 years with over 300 wins with the Rams. That’s pretty heady stuff to follow in the footsteps of. “This program has always excelled in basketball. It’s part of that I-20 corridor that has always produced great basketball teams. There’s a lot of excitement around the area for basketball, and especially at Newton. They are starved for another State Championship after all this time and they’ve been very close. If we can put together the right group of players and a talented staff of coaches, hopefully we can take that next step.”
Author’s note: Having known Gibbons since he first arrived on the Morgan County campus, we have become good friends. His knowledge of the game, his background as a player and having grown up as a coach’s son, his outgoing personality, humility, and energetic style has always impressed me.
If anyone around can bring home another State Title to Newton, this was the right hire for the job.