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The news that Anderson County High School girls' basketball coach Tony Kays would be retiring came as a major surprise to members of the Lady Bearcat basketball team.
After meeting with several administration officials, Kays gathered the returning players for a meeting at the school last Tuesday. Rising seniors Corrin Robinson, who has played for the Lady Bearcats since the sixth grade, and Missa Walker, who joined the team as a sophomore, talked with Anderson News sports editor John Herndon via their Twitter accounts last week.
“I was really surprised but also a little upset because he is a great coach and taught me a lot,” Walker said. “(I was) hoping he would stay for my senior year.
“It totally took me by surprise. Even at our banquet, he never mentioned he was retiring, so it never came to mind. He will be missed.”
Robinson has been a part of six consecutive 30th District titles and has played in three Sweet 16s under Kays' tutelage. She, too, was not expecting the news, given that Kays had said publicly he expected to be back.
“I was very surprised, as well as the rest of the team,” she said. “I had heard he was coming back as well.”
Both Walker and Robinson said the Lady Bearcats wish Kays well.
“Coach Kays has been nothing but great to all of us,” Robinson said. “No one is mad at him for it. Everyone understands. (We are) just upset to see him go.”
Robinson and Walker agreed that Kays had learned how to push his team to become even better.
“Coach Kays was always a great motivator,” Robinson said. “He always has something positive to say. He never put anyone down either. Things are going to be a lot different without him next year. He always did what ever was best for the team as well, and did whatever it had to take.”
Walker added, “Coach Kays had good patience with all his players. He was a great motivator. He was dedicated to the game which helped us strive to do our best. He was a friend and a good listener. He cared about us. He made everyone a better person. He will be missed tremendously.”
Robinson, along with rising junior Kaci Currens, has some experience as a starter. Both will likely be ranked among the Eighth Region's top players next season. Walker has been a key reserve as has rising junior Mia Aldridge. Kays is not leaving the cupboard bare and the Lady Bearcats will likely be a major factor in the Eighth Region no matter who is coaching them in 2014-15.
The transition to a new coach for the first time since 1999 will be a question to be answered through the upcoming year. “It could have an effect as to whether or not we make it (to the Sweet 16),” Robinson said of the upcoming coaching change.”But it will also be up to the rest of the team as of how bad we want it. We can do anything if we work our hardest for it. We may have lost quite a few players, but I think it's possible for us to go back to state.”