West High: Olympian returns to high school coaching

Marvin WestWest Knox, westwords

Knox-area high schools have had some interesting people as basketball coaches.

Earl Hoffmeister was coach at Powell High on his way up to superintendent of schools.

Dick Campbell was coach at Halls on his way down from Carson-Newman and The Citadel and two other college jobs.

Some have won championships.

Aubin Goporo (UT sports information)

Buford Bible is in the TSSAA Hall of Fame. His Knoxville High School teams won three state titles (1939, 1941, 1951). Coach Bible did a lot of other things, including teach math at the University of Tennessee.

Clifford Ross is in the TSSAA Hall of Fame. His Austin-East team won the state championship in 1977. The school gymnasium is named for Ross. His teams won 202 more games than they lost. He was athletics director for 11 years. Somewhere along the way, he was basketball, track and tennis coach at Knoxville College.

Jody Wright, oh my, 35 years at Fulton High, 751 victories, 18 trips to the state tournament, three championships, Falcons’ athletics director, is a respected member of the TSSAA Board of Control.

Conley Aiken and Troy Haydon produced national titles for Tennessee School for the Deaf.

This is just name-dropping of long-ago friends … Marshall Bible was a powerful influence at South High. Carroll Smith made a wonderful difference at Holston. The England boys helped. Howard Rash was coach in 1978 when the Warriors defeated Rule High for a state title. Holston finished that season 34-1.

I remember Bob Fry at Fulton, George Pitts at Young and Bearden, Jim Prince at Powell, Bill Deatherage at Catholic, Lynn Sexton at Farragut, the list of special people goes on and on.

G.H. Lennon’s Austin team of the late 1950s, with 6-10 Paul Hogue, 6-9 Harvey Goolsby, 6-8 James Ivory and two little guards, Johnny Dean and Pete Drew, defeated a national powerhouse from Chicago.

I was a basketball referee for a few years way back when. I once teased Coach Lennon with the idea that even I could have been a successful coach with those great players.

In a gentle way, Dusty zinged me back: Did I think I would have coached better than I officiated?

In a comparison of interesting coaches, West High (no relation) has set a record. The school has chosen Aubin Thierry Goporo, 49, as the new head coach. He was previously director of player development for Rick Barnes at the University of Tennessee.

“Aubin is a great man – one of the finest individuals I know,” Barnes said.

Goporo has a unique background. He was born in Bangui in Central African Republic. As I recall, Bangui is a good place to be from. It has been a hot spot in a civil war.

Aubin became a basketball star. He played for his country in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Central African Republic seized that opportunity very seriously. It defeated the host team. South Koreans masked disappointment with courteous applause. I do remember. I was in Seoul.

If you are keeping score, Korea won the rematch.

Goporo emigrated, played more basketball and earned a degree in business administration at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. He stayed 15 more years and coached high school basketball at Florida Air Academy. His record was 355-52 with four 3A state championships. He was twice Space Coast coach of the year. He was athletic director for a while. He is in the regional hall of fame.

Barnes and Goporo got acquainted when Texas recruited one of his players.

In 2015, Goporo was back in the Central African Republic as coach of the national team. It won the continental championship in Tunisia. He spent the next year at Louisiana-Lafayette, with the Ragin’ Cajuns. Just guessing that might have been a culture shock.

Barnes never said this to me but it appears there was a connection between Aubin joining the UT staff and the arrival of 18-year-old Yves Pons from France. It so happens Goporo is fluent in English, French and Sango.

He did a lot behind the scene for Barnes. He assisted with on-campus recruiting. He was player mentor for personal and professional development. He was the academic liaison to the Thornton Center. He coordinated community outreach.

Barnes says Goporo “is a terrific teacher. Our guys absolutely adored him. He had a phenomenal relationship with the players.”

Why go away? Aubin wanted to go back in time and again have his own team.

West High has captured some headlines. The school has the only international basketball coach with an Olympic pedigree.

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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