By Trey Williams
Basketball coach John Good’s first losing season at David Crockett will be his last.
Good, eager for a new adventure after going 116-76 in six seasons at Crockett, has accepted the same position at Unicoi County. He admires Unicoi superintendent and former Blue Devils basketball coach John English and his successor on the bench, Michael Smith, who Good is following.
The Blue Devils have been to nine sectionals in the past 15 years. Crockett has been to three since the school opened in 1971, and Good led the Pioneers to two of those (2016 and ’17).
“I’ve always had great respect for Coach English and Coach Smith – what they did and the way their teams played,” Good said. “They love the game and they love kids.”
Good, who played for George Pitts at Science Hill and was a Hilltoppers assistant under Mike Poe and Ken Cutlip, had less trouble with his alma mater than he did with Unicoi during his first three seasons at Crockett with players such as Patrick Good, Dustin Day and Brendan Coleman.
The Patrick Goodill. And Unicoi is a perennial factor in the Class AA Three Rivers Conference.
Deep footprints have been left at Crockett. The rivalry with Science Hill and Good’s former boss, Ken Cutlip, was must-see intensity, and the Pioneers’ two victories against Tee Higgins-led Oak Ridge during the 2015-16 season were among the region’s best in the modern era.
Oak Ridge went 34-3 that season. The other loss to Cordova came minus an injured starter, and Cordova lost 64-60 to nationally ranked Memphis East in the state championship.
Crockett had to win its sectional at Oak Ridge after failing to beat Science Hill for the fourth straight time that season. It didn’t seem realistic that the Pioneers would upset the fired-up Wildcats on the road after outlasting them in one of the best Arby’s Classic games of all-time.
Oak Ridge was taller, more athletic, deeper and had a chip on its shoulder. And an overflow crowd was cheering it on. But Coleman played an exceptional first half, Day was spectacular in the second half and Patrick Good was true when it was time to deliver a dagger in overtime.
Coach Good said it was his most gratifying win at Crockett.
“I’d always ask Dustin Day questions during games and he would never really give me the answer that I wanted until that game,” Good said. “And it was about the third quarter and I said, ‘Dustin, you know they can’t guard you, don’t you?’ And he said, ‘Yes, sir.’ And I thought, ‘Okay, well it’s about time.’
“It was a thing where they weren’t guarding him off the ball screen with him and Patrick, and he ran off like 16 in a row. And then they started having to go one on one, and Patrick was able to get loose. They played well together. They worked hard together. That game was huge.”
The Pioneers might’ve exhaled after making it two straight against a powerhouse. They lost by 10 to Station Camp in the state quarterfinals while not looking like the same team that beat a decidedly superior Oak Ridge on the road the previous week.
But Crockett bounced back and reached the sectional again the following season despite losing six of the top seven players. Josh “Rico” Releford had an exceptional senior season to make it possible.
“Josh put us on his back a lot of times,” Good said.
Many coaches in the region noted the job Good did to get to the sectional during a major rebuilding season. Just hearing from Pitts, who won three state titles at Science Hill and four at Brentwood Academy, was enough for Good, who also found validation with former Pitts assistants Charlie Morgan and Randy Ferrell.
“When you get a text message from Coach Pitts, Coach Morgan, Coach Ferrell,” Good said, “it makes you feel like you can conquer the world.”
It was the same feeling Good’s police-escorted Pioneers had when they pulled out of Jonesborough bound for Murfreesboro.
“The sendoff that we had,” Good said, “was something that will live with us forever.”