Blake Garner simply “needed some time” in deciding to step away as head boys basketball coach at Daleville High School.
“I think you’ll see me coach again,” Garner said. “I’m not going to be a recluse and hide, I just needed some time.”
Garner has spent the past six seasons as the head coach of the Warhawks, compiling an impressive 109-60 record. He was head JV coach and assistant varsity coach for three years before that, amassing a 39-10 mark.
His father passed away last July and Garner continued to work as an assistant football coach – serving as offensive coordinator, running backs and special teams coach – and then turned his attention to his basketball duties. While Garner continued to coach, his two older sisters took the lead in getting things in order for the family following his father’s passing.
“I was executor of my father’s will and both of my sisters stepped up and did a lot of that while I was coaching,” Garner said. “I didn’t have time to deal with things. In November I resigned my football coaching duties thinking that would be enough.”
Once basketball season kicked in, however, there was little time to spare.
“I spend a lot of time in basketball,” Garner said. “It’s nothing for me to be here at midnight looking at film and washing clothes (during basketball season). Even on weekends, I’m just going to go up here and do one more thing and I’ll be here four hours.”
In stepping away from basketball, Garner knows it will open up the opportunity for a football assistant to be hired that may be able to take over the basketball job as well.
Garner informed school officials of his decision on Tuesday. The actual letter of resignation is dated for Thursday. He will continue to teach at the middle school.
“Over the last few months I got to thinking more and more that I’m taking a football coaching spot away where Coach (Desmond) Lett could have another football coach come in and coach two sports, instead of me just coaching one sport,” Garner said.
Being at home during the COVID-19 pandemic also gave Garner time to further reflect on things.
“On a selfish level, it was really good for me just sitting at home,” Garner said. “I found myself getting emotional about any little thing, so I guess that’s a way of getting it out.
“I hate it for society and schools and businesses, but it was really good for me just to get it out of my system.”
Garner served as middle school boys basketball coach (2003-06), junior varsity coach/varsity assistant (2006-08), assistant baseball/golf coach (2008-2011) and assistant basketball coach (2011-14) before being named head boys basketball coach.
He became head coach just one day before the Daleville season opener in 2014 after Jim Bixby, who had come out of retirement after 20 years away from coaching to take the Daleville job, stepped away without ever coaching a game at the school due to a family situation. Bixby, who coached 17 years at Geneva High and is a member of the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame, accepted the Daleville job when Troy Turman left to coach at his alma mater of Pleasant Home.
“We won five games in a row to start the season and ended up with 21 wins that season,” Garner said.
Two seasons ago, Garner led Daleville to a 20-8 record and the regional tournament finals. The team won 13 of its last 15 games. Following the season, Garner was named Dothan Eagle Super 12 Coach of the Year.
Daleville finished 18-11 this past season.
“We overachieved,” Garner said. “We were really young and didn’t have any height, really. When I put in my resignation papers, I said, ‘Look, I’m not leaving the cupboard bare.’”
During a nine-year run in basketball – three as JV coach/varsity assistant and six as head varsity coach – the Warhawks went 222-90.
“It’s been a lot of fun and I’d love to do it now, but I don’t want to hold up a coach,” Garner said.
Garner wanted to thank the basketball coaches he has worked with during his time at Daleville – Troy Turman, Shawn Davis, Reid Merritt, Everette Marshall, Evan Harvin, Darwin Mason and Ken Fox.
And of course, Garner will miss interacting with and coaching the players.
“There’s no doubt you’re going to miss being around the players,” Garner said. “Practices sometimes aren’t fun, but if you practice hard and you prepare stuff, it helps you be a little bit more successful for game-type situation stuff.
“I’m going to miss the camaraderie with coaches in the area. You make a lot of friends, especially when you’ve been in this area 20 years.”