Just some sports stuff to talk about

So much has happened over the last week. So much so that narrowing them down to talk about a single topic is a daunting task. Guess what? I cannot do it. I am going to have to share this space with several topics of interest.

First things first, Central High basketball coach Bobby Wright reached another milestone in his coaching career last Saturday night in Auburn. He won his 600th game with the Red Devils. That is quite a feat. Over the course of his 28 seasons with the team, Wright has won an average of just more than 21 games per season. His teams have averaged just fewer than seven losses per season.

Wright’s overall record is 600-190 heading into today’s Central Regional Tournament – the round of Sweet 16 – in Montgomery at the Alabama State University Acadome. Central will play Jeff Davis today with hopes of advancing to the Elite 8 round next Tuesday against the winner of the Auburn-R.E. Lee game which is also being played today. Wright’s team, which was not supposed to get this far this season, is four wins away from a state title – two wins away from its eighth trip to the Final 4 tournament in Birmingham. Central lost to McGill-Toolen last year in the Class 7A title game. With the loss, Central also lost several key players on that team to graduation.

Entering this season, Wright felt his team could compete because he did have three players with significant game experience returning. But, two of the players were lost – one to injury and one to grades. That left Wright with one senior starter – Demarkus Lampley – a junior returning from a knee injury – Justyn Ross – and several sophomore players. When he looked at his situation, Wright laughed and shook his head. After a few games, he decided at least “this team ain’t scared of playing nobody.” Except for losses in their initial contests with Auburn and Smiths Station, the Red Devils showed improvement with each game. They wound up in a three-way tie for the regular season Area 4 title. They won the Area 4 Tournament to gain the top see from the area in the Central Regional. 

A bunch of kids who were not expected to get to this point of the season made it here. They compiled a 22-4 record. They won the area tournament and presented Wright with his 600th victory. They could go further, but it makes no difference. They made it this far and that is a long way from where they started.

The Lady Red Devils did not win the area tournament, but they did win the regular season crown with a perfect 4-0 record. The team is 24-4 overall and ranked among the Top 5 in the Alabama Sports Writers poll of Class 7A teams. The loss to Auburn in the area tournament dropped Central to the No. 2 seed from the area going into today’s Central Regional Tournament. Central will play R.E. Lee, the No. 1 seed from Area 3 in the Sweet 16 round. Central’s Coach Carolyn Wright is in her 26th season with the Lady Red Devils and has an overall record of 481-267 – an average of better than 18 wins and just over 10 losses per year. 

Central has been very lucky to have dedicated coaches in all sports. The Wrights are dedicated to their teams and have a combined record of 1,081-457. Other schools can only wish to have that record from their boys and girls basketball teams.

One more thing for this week, and it is unrelated to basketball, is that former Central High star football player Tommie Robinson was named last week as the assistant head coach, running backs coach and recruiting coordinator for the LSU Tigers’ football team. Robinson is joining the Tigers after one season as the running backs coach and coordinator of the running game at Southern Cal. It was his second stint with the Trojans. Robinson was with the team in 2013 under former coach Lane Kiffin, who was fired during the season, and under interim coach Ed Orgeron, now LSU’s head coach.

Robinson played for former Central coach Wayne Trawick and later served as an assistant coach with the Red Devils for three years: 1988-1990. His coaching career since those days has been at the major college level and in the NFL. Robinson has six years in the NFL  - three each with the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals. His college coaching career has taken him to Arkansas, Utah State, TCU, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Miami (Fla.), Southern Cal, Texas and now LSU.

Robinson was named the top recruiter in the Pac-12 this past season – and the No. 2 recruiter nationally by 247sports.com. He will be expected to have similar success recruiting for LSU. There is nothing in Robinson’s character that would lead you to believe he will not be as successful. 

Oh, as I end this week’s column, I will tell you the Alabama State Legislature may be getting into how much high school football coaches are paid. There is the current promise of a bill which would limit the football coach to making only 75 percent of the pay given to their high school’s principal. However, unlike the proposed bill to require two playoff systems for public and private schools playing in the AHSAA, it appears this pay bill may be dead before it gets to a committee for consideration. We will have to wait to see what happens here.

By Mark Clark. Clark is a local sports 

writer for The Citizen.