By Tim Chambers
Willing and “Abel.”
Happy Valley tabbed Larry Abel as the new girls head basketball coach today, replacing Erica Babb-Beach after one season at the helm.
Beach was an assistant to Greg Goulds the year before, but he resigned because his ISS position was eliminated — leaving the team without a head coach. HVHS was granted permission by the TSSAA to hire Beach for a season to fill that vacancy.With no guarantee of a teaching position for Beach, the Warriors began looking from within for the right fit.
Abel was the perfect choice.
The new head coach graduated from Happy Valley in 1988 and was a four-sport letterman while there. He played football for one season at Tennessee Tech and later completed his degree. He returned in 2000 as an assistant football coach to Stan Ogg before moving over to girls basketball as an assistant coach under Stan Ogg. He stayed in that role until 2006.
Abel’s been the top assistant under legendary coach Charlie Bayless for the past four seasons after a one-year stint at Tennessee High.
He remembers the squad coached by Mike Rader that finished as state runner-up in 1989. It’s that type of respectability that Abel would like to bring back to the program.
“I was playing football close by at Tennessee Tech when they brought home the silver ball,” said Abel. “It was my freshman year of college and Murfreesboro was close by, so I went down and watched it. It was special seeing all the student body and fan support there and what it meant to the community. Our league is tough from top to bottom, but we want to bring that type of pride back to this girls basketball program.”
Abel knows what it’s like to wear the Warrior logo not only as a coach, but also as a player.
“I played on some of the better football teams at Happy Valley, and I also played on a couple of really good basketball teams,” said Abel. “All the programs back then were pretty solid. We had a great bunch of players and coaches. The fans support was awesome, too.”
Abel never envisioned himself in this role when he first started coaching. It was his first season helping Godsey that got him hooked on girls basketball.
“I saw myself being a football coach early in my career, but after I coached girls basketball I fell in love with it,” added Abel. “If you can get a girl to believe in you, they’ll run through a wall for you. I love the players we have here at Happy Valley. I’ve had most of them in class at the middle school, so they all know me. They’ve had three coaches in the past three years, so I’m hoping more than anything to bring some stability back to the program. I would love to see us get back to hanging some banners because the rafters are a little bare right now.”
Principal Terry Hubbard believes that Abel will do a great job leading the team.
“He’s been a very good assistant coach to everyone he’s helped,” said Hubbard. “Coach Abel has a passion for this school and he’s been very loyal to Coach Bayless. He’s always had a desire to coach girls basketball, so we’re excited for him to get the opportunity. I know he loves these kids and wants to see them do well both on the floor and in the classroom. He’ll do a great job in his new role.”
Efforts to contact Happy Valley athletic director Bernie Young by phone were unsuccessful.
Abel thanked Hubbard and others for giving him the opportunity to fulfill his coaching desire.
“I am grateful to Mrs. Hubbard, the school board and everyone involved for giving me a chance,” said Abel. “I’ve always looked up to her because she professional in what she does and goes about it the right way.”
Abel has an idea as to who he would like on his staff, but will consult with Hubbard and others before making that choice.
“It’s important to have good help — that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “You want to have a coach that is loyal, but one who is proven and can teach fundamentals. “
The new head coach will concentrate on teaching defense and playing an up-tempo game when practice starts. He’s also not afraid to set the bar high for later down the road.
“I would love to see us get back to Murfreesboro more than anything, but right now we have to have some stability,” he said. “It starts with getting the kids to buy into my system and playing my type of basketball. I’m looking for commitment more than anything because that’s what I want to give back to them.”
If Abel can bring the program back to the Rader days, then fans will be back raising “Cain” on Warrior Hill.