What is the most difficult situation a coach that is new to a school is forced to deal with? Is it getting to know his new players strengths? Learning the tendency of the teams on the schedule? Maybe it could be learning how to deal with a new administration. All of those are challenges that a new coach has to be overcome but none match the difficulty of following behind a coach who was beloved by a community, especially one that and had just won a state championship.
Ask anyone who is close to the profession and they will tell you that no matter how much you want to be the “man,” you don’t ever want to be the “man” following the “MAN.” Talk about having your work cut out for you. Most coaches who are brave enough to attempt such an endeavor are usually long time veterans who already have achieved a modicum of success. Hardly ever do you see one succeed who has virtually no experience. A coach like that has a very special kind of quality. One could say that it takes a Hall of Fame kind of quality. Wayne Alford was that kind of coach.
When Alford took over the Jonesboro-Hodge program in 1982, the Tigers were coming off a state championship season but had lost their coach to private business. The boyish looking but fiery young coach, who had only one season each at tiny Provencal and Cloutierville, had nothing on his resume that indicated he was prepared to step into the, what looked like a no-win situation. Yet when most would have ran from such a situation, Alford was eager to take on the challenge.
“It was Jonesboro-Hodge’s tradition of having a winning culture that made me want to come,” reflected Alford. “I wanted to be a part of that.”
By the time the coach that his friends and family called “Peanut” (nickname given to him by his uncle as a young lad because of his small stature) finished his coaching career, Alford had not only continued the Tiger’s tradition of winning he had tremendously raised the bar.
During his 14 year tenure, longest ever by a JHHS coach, he averaged 22 wins per season. He won 308 games, which at the time of his retirement this was over one hundred games won more than any other coach in school history. Included was the 31-3 mark in 1984-85 that still represents the best single season winning percentage, four district championships, nine playoff appearances (you actually had to earn a place back then) and a state runner-up finish in 1988-89.
While he is proud to have achieved success on the court and continue the winning Tiger tradition during his tenure, he is more proud of helping his players create their own legacy of excellence in a different area. It was another reason that Alford was not afraid to “step into the fire” as they say.
“Every coach wants to win games. It is what they are hired to do,” explained Alford. “But what was most important to me and the reason I chose to be a coach is I knew that a good coach played an important role in helping a young person mature and productive adults. I grew up watching coaches have that effect and that is what I wanted to do.”
It was that desire that also led Alford into school administration, first as a principal and then Superintendent of Jackson Parish Schools, that gave him a platform to help more young adults than just the members of a basketball team. The culmination of his two-plus decades of dedication to the youth of Jackson Parish has earned him induction into the Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame but in typical Alford fashion, he shares the spotlight.
“Being included with all the greats of Jackson Parish is something I will always cherish,” said Alford, who is reluctant to take the credit for his impressive credentials. “This is more of a testament of being blessed to have the opportunity to coach a whole bunch of quality young men who worked hard to be successful. As a collective group we won a lot of games but I never made a single shot or grabbed a rebound. I was given the honor but they deserve the credit.”
Alford also gives credit for the legacy of long term excellence that he left to the administrators and school personnel he worked with.
“I was so fortunate to be associated with many people of tremendous character who were always eager to help me and our program,” continued Alford. “Nothing that was achieved would have been possible without their support and guidance.”