Sometimes it takes a hometown touch to lead local sports teams, and that’s exactly what Sequoyah had in mind when searching for a replacement for boys basketball coach Josh Graves.
Madisonville native and former East Tennessee State University guard Andy Pennington will step into the head coaching role on the sidelines for the Chiefs next season. Pennington, a local insurance agent who graduated from the now-closed Madisonville High School in 1992, will maintain his business while taking on the new responsibility at Sequoyah High School.
“I’ll still have my agency here,” Pennington said. “I’ve been here probably nine or 10 years. And I’ll just be the boys head coach out there (at Sequoyah).”
Pennington is ready to represent his community in a somewhat familiar capacity as he returns to Sequoyah as a coach for the second time.
“It’s exciting,” Pennington said. “But what’s weird was my first head coaching job was at Sequoyah 20 years ago. So just being back at it, I know a lot of the parents, I know a lot of the kids. Teaching there and coaching there before, a lot of the teachers I had in school are still there teaching, so it’s good to see some familiar faces and some familiar kids.”
Pennington already has some strategy in mind when looking over the Sequoyah roster for next season.
“Philosophy wise, we’ll probably play like no one else around here,” Pennington said. “We’ll play fast, shoot a lot of threes, and we’ll press from the time the game starts to when it stops. Just a real fast, entertaining type of play that gets 10 to 12 kids playing time every game. Look for a lot of participation, a lot of fun, and I’m almost certain that the community will enjoy it.”
Pennington hopes to replicate the success of the past for the Chiefs as well as add some championship hardware to the trophy case.
“Coach Graves, Coach Curtis and even the late Maurice Moser- Sequoyah has been good at basketball,” Pennington said. “Not to say that it’s never been bad. I hope we can be as good. They got it to where it is now and I definitely want to win some championships along with a bunch of games.”
Pennington won’t be the only new face coaching boys basketball in Monroe County next season. Sweetwater High School is in the process of a coaching search, and next season will pit the two new coaches against each other in a heated county rivalry right off the bat.
“I don’t know who is available, but with me being back here as a local, it would be nice if Sweetwater found someone local,” Pennington said. “A Monroe County person would make the rivalry even more heated. It seems like that rivalry is never going to change, and the same is with Tellico Plains.”
Pennington has a target mentality for his players, on and off the court, and expects to hold Chiefs to especially high standards as players and as young men.
“I have these bands I made for them in spring practice, and it’s something that over my years of coaching, I’ve just always had in mind,” Pennington said, displaying two wristbands. “It’s ‘be comfortable being uncomfortable’ and ‘give more than expected’. You have ‘self discipline, teamwork, poise, preparation, and trust’. That will definitely help us grow as a team. Short term, getting this stuff in their heads and talking about it daily, not only will it make them better on the floor but big picture, I hope that when they’re off the court and away from school and people question the bands, they can define the words and live those words out.”
Pennington and the Chiefs will take to the hardwood this fall for a new season.