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Legendary Southern High boys basketball coach, athletic director Tom Albright dies at 87

Aug 10, 2023

Aug 09, 2023 at 6:08 pm Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at The Baltimore Sun. Expand Tom Albright was the first athletic director at Southern High, starting in 1961, and oversaw Bulldogs sports for 44 years. He died Monday after a lengthy illness. (Michael Lutzky) Southern High School lost one of the most legendary figures in its history Monday when Tom Albright died after a lengthy illness. Albright, 87, had been residing in North Carolina since retiring from the Anne Arundel County school system in 2004. Albright was the first athletic director at Southern High, starting in 1961 after the school system created the position. He oversaw Bulldogs sports for 44 years, greatly expanding the number of programs offered. Advertisement Albright took over a downtrodden Southern High boys basketball program in 1965 and built it into one of the strongest in Anne Arundel County and all of Maryland. He led the Bulldogs to four state championships, still the most of any school in Anne Arundel. Albright retired as the all-time winningest coach in county history with a career record of 550-352 in 39 seasons. He was later surpassed by longtime rival John Brady, who resigned with a 772-173 mark in 2016 after 38 seasons at Annapolis High. Advertisement Albright also led Southern to 11 county championships and 10 regional crowns. The Bulldogs were Class A state champs in 1973, Class B state champs in 1981, 1983 and 1986. Southern lost in the state finals three times (1972, 1979, 1980) and also made four other state semifinal appearances (1970, 1971, 1984, 1996) during Albright’s tenure. Albright was inducted into the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and the gymnasium at Southern High is named in his honor. Southern basketball coach Tom Albright, during a playoff game against Central High School in 1996. (J. Henson) Ted Gott, who first met Albright while in the seventh grade, called him an “institution” at Southern High and said his legacy will be all the young students and athletes he helped along the way. Albright gave rides to players without transportation to and from school, Gott said. He recalled that every Christmas Albright would buy produce and hand apples, oranges and other fruit out to players for the holidays. “The Southern High basketball team was Tom’s family. He cared about those players as though they were his own children,” Gott said. “Tom had the complete respect of the players because they knew he would do anything for them. Those kids would do whatever he asked them to do.” Ben Albright noted that his brother grew up in a state orphanage in Raleigh, North Carolina and appreciated any kindness others showed him. As a youngster, he served as a ball boy for N.C. State men’s basketball and Hall of Fame head coach Everett Norris Case. Case had a profound influence on Albright, who learned coaching skills and techniques from watching Case run practices. He attended East Carolina University and accepted a teaching position at Southern shortly after graduation. Advertisement “Tom never married, so his family was those kids on his basketball teams. I think it was as much counseling as coaching,” Ben Albright said. “Tom made a major impact on Southern High and the surrounding community. He took pride in working with troubled kids, providing them with guidance and direction. It really meant a lot to him when those kids became successful members of the community as adults.” ‘A father figure for all’ Gott served as Albright’s scorekeeper while in high school and became an assistant coach in 1971. He was with Albright until the latter’s retirement, then succeeded his friend as Southern athletic director. Albright usually spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter with the Gott family at the home of Ted’s parents Vernon and Jessie, who were very involved with Southern High athletics for decades. “We considered Tom a part of our family,” Ted said. “Tom was a tremendous mentor and a great friend. I learned a lot about coaching and life from him.” Gott believes the turning point for Southern High boys basketball occurred in 1968 when it beat powerhouse Annapolis High by a point on a last-second shot. Five years later, the Bulldogs would capture their first state championship with a team led by Jimmy Dove, Quincy Cole and Charles Tyler. Vic Smith, who would go on to play basketball at the Naval Academy, was a sophomore on that squad. Tom Albright, back right, oversaw sports at Southern High School for 44 years. (Michael Lutzky) Power forward Tyrone Barnett and point guard Pee Wee Smith were the leaders of the 1981 state championship squad. Point guard Terrence Barnett and forward Gary Mullen were the key figures on the 1983 state title team. The late Geno Spriggs, who went on to play professional baseball, was the go-to guy of 1986 squad that won it all. Advertisement Prolific shooting guard Vince Barnett, high-flying forward Chatney Howard and versatile combination guard Will Maynard are three of the other greatest players of the Albright era. Freddy Booze, one of the stars of the 1979 and 1980 teams that were state runner-up, said “Coach Albright was a father figure for all of us.” Booze learned from his uncle, Southern multisport great Chuck Makell, the key to playing for Southern. Makell, another member of the 1973 state title team, told his nephew “you better play defense for Coach Albright or you will not see the floor.” Booze dedicated himself to learning the wing position of the Bulldogs’ trademark 1-3-1 defense. “Coach Albright used to say that championships are not won in December, they are won in March,” Booze said. “So he would schedule [Southern] to play D.C. powerhouses such as Mackin, St. Anthony’s and Gonzaga. Ray Bowen was a member of the 1983 state championship squad and accepted the challenge of succeeding Albright as Southern High boys basketball coach. Bowen said Albright took as much pride in teaching his popular computer science classes as he did coaching. “First and foremost, Mr. Albright was a teacher. He wasn’t just a basketball coach. He was always very invested in being a teacher,” said Bowen, who later shared an office with Albright and also served as the school’s athletic director for many years. Advertisement “As a coach, Mr. Albright had a natural ability to motivate guys to play hard and play together. Being part of the Southern High basketball program was very special because Tom Albright made it such an important part of the school community.” Albright served as the director of the southern chapter of the Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks Youth Basketball League and most games were held at Southern High. Albright was a constant presence in the gym and got to know his future players when they were still in elementary school. “I was offered an opportunity to go to private schools to play basketball and didn’t because I had built such a strong relationship with Coach Albright,” Maynard said. “As a kid growing up in south county, you wanted to play basketball at Southern for Coach Albright.” A stickler for preparation Maynard, a 1999 Southern graduate, is only the fourth boys basketball coach at the Harwood School since 1960. He replaced Bowen in 2011 and has maintained many of the traditions started by Albright. Maynard remembers that two of Albright’s friends, Charlie Grace and Dennis Liddy, traveled throughout Anne Arundel County and beyond to scout upcoming opponents. “Coach Albright was ahead of his time as far as preparing and scouting. We watched a lot of film and always had detailed scouting reports,” Maynard said. “We were able to compete successfully against the bigger schools in the country because Coach Albright always made sure we were very well prepared.” Advertisement Albright always liked to play a fast-paced style predicated on pushing the ball off turnovers and rebounds. Southern was famous for playing an aggressive 1-3-1 zone defense throughout his tenure. Southern boys basketball coach Tom Albright, left, and Laurinburg coach Chris Chaney, a Southern grad, watch their players warm up before their game in 2001. (John Gillis) “We did the same things over and over in practice. Coach Albright’s philosophy was: ‘This is what we’re going to do and the other team will have to stop it,’” Maynard said. “He would say that we’re going to be so good at playing our style that it will be hard for teams to beat us.” Maynard said Albright strictly enforced roles. If you were not a designated scorer and took a lot of shots, you got pulled from the game. He had a folksy, easygoing coaching style up to a point. “Coach Albright was laid-back until you made him mad. Whenever he put two fingers in his mouth and whistled or clapped his hands real hard you knew he was upset,” Maynard said. Albright was also a stickler for making sure Southern High boy’s basketball always looked sharp. Southern wore untucked jerseys that were patterned after those pioneered by Marquette under Coach Al McGuire. The Bulldogs always had matching shoes and socks, while Albright religiously wore his best suits on game days. Maynard recalled Albright bought food for players that were hungry and new basketball sneakers for those that could not afford them. He paid for Southern players to attend the prestigious basketball camp operated by renowned DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten. Advertisement “Coach Albright was very protective of his players and would do anything for them. That is why he was so beloved by this community. Everyone knew how much he cared,” Maynard said. Varsity Highlights Get the latest high school sports stories, photos and video from around the region. By submitting your email to receive this newsletter, you agree to our Subscriber Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy . > I feel very fortunate to have played for Coach Albright. I learned an awful lot about life. Just the way he carried himself as a teacher, coach and administrator was impressive.” After retiring from Southern, Albright relocated to Siler City, North Carolina, which was where he was born and raised. He taught computer science and coached basketball at Faith Christian School in nearby Ramseur for a while, then later served as an assistant to 1989 Southern graduate Chris Chaney at the Patterson School in Lenoir. Chaney followed in the footsteps of his father and older brother by playing basketball for Albright at Southern. He served as Albright’s assistant for two seasons before becoming a head coach and is now entering his 30th season in the profession at the Academy of Central Florida. “Coach Albright was a very special person in my life and there is no doubt he was a big inspiration for me to become a coach,” Chaney said. “I always admired how hard Southern teams played for him. It showed how the players truly felt about him. “Coach Albright always went above and beyond to better the Southern program. However, as successful as he was as a coach, I think he found the ability to change lives even more rewarding.” Advertisement Albright was born Jan. 15, 1936, to Naman Teague (Pete) Albright and Edith J. Langley (Brodie). He was predeceased by his mother, father, sister JoAnn Albright Puryear, brother John Steven Brodie and niece Ashley Elizabeth Albright. Albright is survived by sisters Pearl Elizabeth Albright of Asheboro North Carolina, and Brenda Brodie Rauch from New Jersey; brother Benjamin Spence Albright (Bonnie) from Siler City, North Carolina, and nieces and nephews Spence Albright (Victoria), Gavin Albright (Sarah), Anna Baxter (Jordan), Jenna Beth Anderson (Brian), Doug Puryear, Rachel Rauch, Kristie Brodie and John T. Brodie. Advertisement

Chris Chaney Investments

1 Investments

Chris Chaney has made 1 investments. Their latest investment was in TMRW Sports as part of their Seed VC on November 11, 2022.

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