Northeast's Copeland isn't slowing down

Some schools hang region championship banners in their gymnasium.

If Alvin Copeland did that, then the Northeast gym would be wallpapered with those banners from girls basketball and track and field. There would also be the state championship banners that Copeland has accumulated in his 40-plus years of coaching in east Macon. Almost all of those years have been spent as the Raiderettes’ head girls basketball coach.

But even with all of those years on the court, Copeland said this week he doesn’t know when he’ll retire.

“(Bibb County athletics director) Raynette Evans will decide when I’m not coaching any more,” Copeland said.

Evans said if that’s the case, Copeland might not be gone so soon.

“If that’s true, then we’re good to go,” said Evans, who played at Southwest against Copeland-coached teams. “I’m not asking him to leave. ... He enjoys it. With the success he’s had, why would he stop.”

Copeland and Evans have a strong relationship, and that tight-knit bond will make the decision hard to make whenever that time comes.

Evans calls Copeland a mentor and said she leaned on him when she took over as county athletics director more than 20 years ago.

“There was a lot of resistance when I took this job because, I was a woman, and I was not a football coach,” Evans said. “We spent a lot of nights with me telling him my woes and him encouraging me. He coached me up like I was one of his players. I don’t know if I could have made it through those first two years without him.”

Copeland has a similar impact on scores of Northeast athletes. He has served as a school athletics director, head coach and father figure, Evans said, and that has helped build a family atmosphere that has carried on through the years.

“Obviously, Coach Copeland is one of the great coaches in the state,” Evans said. “But his players respect him and want to do well for him. I think that has helped keep them successful.”

Not that expectations are ever really low for Northeast, but the Raiderettes should have a strong season. They are ranked second in both the coaches’ and media polls.

Although they lose two experienced and talented starters in Erica Travet and Key’erra Rozier, the Raiderettes have a strong core returning. Junior Maria Bond was the Raiderettes’ best player last season, and she has made even more strides after a summer of AAU basketball.

“Maria understands basketball better than any other player on the team,” Copeland said. “A lot of players have talent, but a lot of them don’t understand the game. She does.”

Jerryisha Williams started as a freshman last season, and she should be able to contribute scoring to pick up the slack of some of the graduated talent.

Copeland is known for underselling expectations, and he said his team will be successful if it wins two games this season.

“We aren’t going to be a bad team,” Copeland said later. “I don’t know if we are the No. 2 team right now. Rankings are good for the school and the community. But the rankings are really surprising to me. I can’t tell you what I really think of it right now.”

For now, Copeland isn’t even thinking about retirement or where the Raiderettes will be at the end of the season.

“I’ll learn a lot about our team at the tournament (in Savannah) this week,” Copeland said. “We have to grow and keep getting better. We have some players that I think can pick up the slack (of the girls we lost). But we’re just thinking about getting better right now. Nothing else.”