After 45 years at Central-Phenix City, boys basketball coach Bobby Wright says it’s almost time to call it a career.
Wright will coach the Red Devils for his 32nd season — as long as the coronavirus doesn’t prevent a basketball season — before stepping away from the team. The longtime Central athletic director will also act as a consultant to his replacement in that role, Central wrestling coach Rob Morales.
The Citizen of East Alabama’s Mark Clark first reported the news.
“Quite honestly, with the COVID thing I’ve had time to sit at home a lot. I just started trying to look at what I’m doing and what I want to do down the road, and I just got to the point where at my age it’s just not real healthy for me to be around a whole lot of kids at this time,” said Wright, who is 68 years old. “I had a whole lot of things going through my head. There’s a time and season for everything, and I just felt it might be a good time for me to kind of just ride it on out.
“It’s not the end for me. I’m going to do something. I’m not used to sitting around and doing nothing. It’s just that I want to do things when I want to do it and move when I want to move at this point.”
Wright has been a part of tremendous success at Central going back to when he was first promoted to replace James Redd, under whom Wright served as an assistant for 12 seasons.
Wright has accrued a 658-217 record in 31 seasons as Central’s head coach, a run that has included four championship game appearances, eight state semifinal appearances, eight region titles, 23 area titles — including a string of 13 in a row — and 26 playoff appearances. Additionally, Central has had over 100 players sign with colleges during Wright’s run at the helm.
Wright’s 2019-2020 squad posted a 12-13 overall record and reached the Class 7A state tournament before falling to eventual champion Lee-Montgomery in the regional semifinals.
“It’s been an awesome experience, being here at Central High School. I feel like this is pretty much my second home since I’ve spent so much time here and been here so long,” Wright said. “I’ve seen so many great teams come through and great kids come through. I’ve tried to impact the lives of a lot of those kids. It’s just been very meaningful to me to come to a community like this and put my footprint there.
“It’s been one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done — to come over here and work at Central High School.”
Along with his success on the hardwood, Wright spent many years as an assistant football coach for the Red Devils. Wright served as the defensive coordinator under Wayne Trawick and later Ron Nelson, and Wright was a coach on the Red Devils’ 1993 team that went 14-1 and captured the first state championship in program history.
Wright stepped away from coaching football in 2010.
Wright is far from the only winning coach in the family, as his wife Carolyn has been at the helm of Central’s girls basketball program since 1991. Both are members of the AHSAA Hall of Fame, and the two have combined for more wins on the hardwood than any other husband-wife duo in Alabama state history.
“My whole life and Carolyn’s for the past 30 years have pretty much been the same: we go to church, we come to Central High School it seems and then come home,” Wright said. “In terms of family, this has been my family, Central High School and Phenix City. I’ve made some great friends — lasting friends forever. “
Morales, meanwhile, is in his 12th year at Central and has served in various roles, including his current one as head wrestling coach.
“It’s been a long-standing goal for me. To be able to fill in his shoes is obviously going to be kind of hard, but I have my own set of expectations, goals and things I want to achieve,” Morales said. “We’re just going to keep rolling and delivering exceptional results. That’s the name of the game.”
With Morales taking over as A.D., Wright explained his main advice to his replacement was to always keep the kids first.
“At the end of the day, I don’t care what decision I’ve tried to make, I always tried to do the right thing as far as the kids are concerned. You can’t always be on the same page with all the parents or with all the coaches, but you can always be consistent and try to be as fair as you can possibly be to the kids,” Wright said. “That’s the thing I’ve always stressed so much. It’s not about me or anyone else; it’s about the kids. After talking to him, I think he understands that role. As long as we keep that perspective, I think he’ll be fine.”
Wright may be wrapping up his coaching career soon, but he’s hopeful that he has plenty of work to do this fall and winter. While it’s unclear whether the pandemic will cease and playing basketball will be feasible, Wright is crossing his fingers and saying his prayers so he can coach a Red Devils team that he feels has plenty of potential.
Wright has dedicated over four decades of his life to Central. Now, he’s hopeful he’s given a few more months for another run at a special season.
“I don’t know the status of what we’ll be able to do or not do, but I do know I’d love to go out on a winning note and I’d love to go out coaching,” Wright said. “I’m just hoping we don’t face a situation where the coronavirus takes us out of the game.”
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