Price finds peace after decision to accept principal gig

April 24, 2013 

When the topic of conversation moved from his job to the game of basketball, Ken Price eased into coach mode.

Tracing lines on the brick wall outside Tabor Gym at Northside High School, explained the essence of good ball movement.

“You’ve got to set up a series of triangles,” he began.

As he spoke, it occurred to me Price’s transition away from coaching might be more difficult than he expects.

“I’m not a great coach by any means,” he said later, “but I’m a coach.”

Last week, Price announced he’ll retire from his post as Northside boys’ basketball coach at the end of the current school year. The decision ends a 34-year career in Georgia public schools, the last six of which were spent on the Northside campus. In June, he’ll begin a new career in administration as principal at Westside Christian Academy.

“I thought it was time for a change,” Price said. “It was quite a year for me, professionally and personally.”

Price’s coaching philosophy generated controversy when he took the Northside job. He preached relentless full-court pressure of the kind used so successfully by Wilkinson County (and by NCAA champion Louisville). Price even scheduled the Warriors on occasion, so his players could see his vision, even if it meant humbling losses.

In time, the system worked. The Eagles proved capable of scoring points in bunches. This past season, Northside hit 75 or more points 14 times. The blitzkriegs translated into wins. The Eagles won 20 games in each of the last two seasons. They won the 20th annual Bear Brawl tournament in December. They won consecutive region championships. All were unprecedented accomplishments at the school.

Ironically, in January, the pressure got the best of Price.

That’s the month when two of the most important men his life passed from this world. First it was his best friend. Then, just days later, his father. It was a time for grief.

But Price doesn’t grieve. He didn’t at least. The pressure built.

He began earning more technical fouls than usual. And then, against Veterans in the last week of the regular season, he pushed a player. He was suspended by the school for the final regular season game. Then, moved to action by his family, Price took a leave of absence from teaching and coaching.

He wasn’t on the sideline during region or state playoff games. Still, the fact that his assistant coaches and players won the region tournament is a source of considerable pride for Price.

“Even through the adversity, the players persevered and made history,” he said.

Counseling helped. Price came to grips with the losses in his personal life. The grief he should have been feeling was replaced by anger -- at his friend, his father, his God. When he finally cried, the pressure broke. Now, he’s embracing this newest chapter in his life.

“God is good,” Price said. “At this point, he moved me to another place.”

As Westside principal, he’ll handle student discipline and other administrative duties. He’ll also play a role in coordinating the school’s athletic programs. Most importantly to Price, however, he’ll “be free to talk about our Lord, Jesus Christ.” A moratorium on those kinds of conversations pained Price and others (myself included) when handed down from the board of education last fall.

Price said he’ll miss coaching basketball but plans to stay close to the sport by offering his services as a personal trainer. In time, he might even find his way back to a sideline.

If he does, here’s hoping he keeps the pressure on the floor where it belongs. He’s too good a man to be damaged further by it.

Contact Chris Deighan at cdeighan@cox.net.

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