Ron Bradley’s still got it af­ter all th­ese years

The Covington News - - Sports -

One might think af­ter nearly a half-cen­tury in the same pro­fes­sion, the en­thu­si­asm me­ter might dip just a lit­tle bit. The in­fec­tious smile might fade slightly. The al­len­com­pass­ing wel­come might not be as hearty as once be­fore. But then again, one might not know Ron Bradley.

“How are you,” the coach of the Her­itage High boys bas­ket­ball team says with gusto to a vis­i­tor late last Fri­day evening. It’s ap­proach­ing 11 p.m. and Bradley’s Pa­tri­ots have just beaten the Ea­gles, 62-46. Now, he’s dis­cussing the pro­ceed­ings with a re­porter and the sta­tus of laun­dry with an as­sis­tant coach.

Af­ter a coach­ing ca­reer that’s spanned six decades, shouldn’t Bradley be at home, re­tired, re­lax­ing, in­stead of wor­ry­ing about re­gion matchups and clean uni­forms?

That wouldn’t be Bradley, who can’t stay away from the game he loves. Re­mem­ber, he re­tired from his post as head boys coach at Greater At­lanta Chris­tian last spring.

Twelve days later, he took the job at Her­itage.

“Any­time you work with kids, it’s spe­cial,” Bradley says.

What’s also spe­cial is his im­pact. Wher­ever Bradley

goes, he wins. His stel­lar coach­ing ca­reer started at New­ton High (then known as New­ton County High) in 1957. He di­rected the Rams to the 1964 Class AA state ti­tle, and New­ton won 129 con­sec­u­tive home games dur­ing his ten­ure in Cov­ing­ton, a na­tional record.

He’s the win­ningest ac­tive prep coach in the coun­try with more than 1,300 vic­to­ries. At Her­itage, a pro­gram that’s en­joyed mod­est suc­cess in re­cent years (av­er­ag­ing 15 vic­to­ries the pre­vi­ous three sea­sons), Bradley has sparked a rise to the top of the Re­gion 8-AAAA, Sub-re­gion B stand­ings.

Her­itage sits 17-5 on the sea­son with three games left be­fore the post­sea­son (the Pa­tri­ots’ reg­u­lar-sea­son finale is next Fri­day at Al­covy). With dis­ci­plined ball-move­ment of­fense, perime­ter shoot­ing and solid de­fense, Bradley and Co. en­ters the re­gion tour­na­ment as a likely can­di­date to ad­vance to the Class AAAA state play­offs.

“We knew they were go­ing to shoot the bas­ket­ball well,” said East­side head coach Michael Ger­ald, who stood and chat­ted with Bradley for sev­eral min­utes be­fore last Fri­day’s game. “All of his teams in the past usu­ally shot the ball ex­tremely well.”

True to form, on this night the Pa­tri­ots hit just un­der 50 per­cent of their field goal at­tempts (20-for-41). In the sec­ond half — when the game got tense — Her­itage stayed pa­tient and ran its of­fense well, hit­ting 11-of-19 shots in the fi­nal two quar­ters.

It’s fun­da­men­tal bas­ket­ball, and it’s a Bradley trade­mark. It took some time to man­i­fest it­self, as the Pa­tri­ots lost two of their first three games. On Jan. 8, in a 54-53 loss at East­side, the Pa­tri­ots let a seven-point cush­ion slip away in the fi­nal min­utes.

Since then, Her­itage hasn’t lost in re­gion ac­tion. Fri­day, when East­side was charg­ing back into the game, Bradley’s play­ers didn’t panic. They hit 7-of-9 free throws in the clos­ing min­utes.

“We’ve come a long way,” Bradley ad­mits. “We’re a bet­ter team now.”

Bet­ter be­cause of the coun­cil and lead­er­ship of their head coach, a man who started his ca­reer in Cov­ing­ton dur­ing the Eisen­hower ad­min­is­tra­tion. A man who is a leg­end in his craft, and who still finds the en­ergy to approach it with the joy of a guy who just got his first job.

“Thanks for com­ing,” he tells the vis­i­tor, and you can’t help but be im­pressed.

Two gen­er­a­tions af­ter he be­gan, Bradley’s still go­ing strong.

Bud El­lis

Colum­nist

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