Red Bay's Roberts Notches 800th Career Victory


                                                           By KEITH LETBETTER
                                              Red Bay News (Special to the AHSAA)

    Red Bay High School girls coach Donnie Roberts notched the 800th win of his long prep basketball coaching career Jan. 25 as the Lady Tigers beat Colbert Heights 64-37. The Lady Tigers improved to 22-2 this season with the win.
    Roberts, who has compiled an 800-346 overall record in his 41-year coaching career, is now the state’s career wins leader for girls basketball and the first in state history to win 800 games.  He will be inducted into the Alabama High School Athletic Association Sports Hall of Fame in March as a member of the Class of 2014.

   “It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s about how fortunate my career has been at Red Bay and the 10 years Icoached at Tremont (Ms.). All I can do is thank the kids that played for me. They had a lot more to do with it than Idid.

   After earning a Master’s Degree from Mississippi State University, he returned to his alma mater, Tremont High School just across the state line from Red Bay and compiled a 142-127 record in the next 10 seasons. Roberts moved to Red Bay in 1983 and began working on the goal of making that first trip to Birmingham for the state playoffs.
    “I came here and took over a team that was 9-11 the year before. We had a real good year that first year and we went 19-5,” Roberts said.

    Roberts, who owns a 658-219 girls coaching record at Red Bay, led the Lady Tigers to state championships in 1987, 1993, 2001 and most recently directed Red Bay to the 2012 Class 2A state finals, a 54-49 loss to Section. Last year Roberts’ team won the Northwest Regional again and lost in the Final 48 semifinals.
     “It takes a combination of things to have a state championship program. It does take coaching, but it also takes pride in our program from our girls.”

      Roberts said that it also takes the involvement of the community.

“Everybody here is involved in it,”said Roberts. They back us and support us. The community likes to see us do well.

      Roberts said that over the years some of the best memories he has is that of having the opportunity to coach both of his daughters, Laura Beth and Leah.

“I think it’s rare to have coached two daughters and to have those two daughters on two different teams win state championships. I can tell you it’s a great experience.”


AHSAA Mourns Death Of Bryant-Jordan Founder

Bryant-Jordan Foundation founder Larry D. Striplin, Jr., 82, died Monday at a Birmingham hospital.

“We are tremendously saddened at this news,” said Alabama High School Athletic Association Executive Director Steve Savarese. “Mr. Striplin has meant so much to the student-athletes in our state through his tireless efforts involving the Bryant-Jordan Program. We all are going to miss him dearly.”

Striplin founded the Bryant-Jordan Student-Athlete scholarship program in 1986. Almost $10 million has been distributed to more than 2,200 senior student-athletes since the program’s inception.
            The first year a total of $8,000 was awarded to 48 regional scholar-athlete winners. Now, 26 years later, more than $800,000 is awarded annually to 96 student-athletes from across the state.             
            In addition to the 48 regional scholar-athlete winners, Striplin’s dream of rewarding students who achieve against major obstacles is now in its 23rd year with 48 regional student achievement honorees recognized each year.

“Larry Striplin has always had a passion for rewarding our young people who excel,” said longtime friend Ken Blankenship, who worked hand-in-hand with Striplin as the Bryant-Jordan Foundation director until his retirement in 2010. The program’s overall scholar-athlete of the year award is now named the “Larry D. Striplin, Jr. Award” in honor of the program’s founder.

“Larry not only raised millions for the program but also donated a tremendous amount of his own money to insure that the Bryant-Jordan Program would continue long after he was gone, " Blankenship added. His legacy will speak of his many unselfish acts of kindness. I can tell you he was proud of the Bryant-Jordan Program most of all.

“I am going to miss him. We all are going to miss him. However, the children of our state – all of us – are better for knowing him.”

Striplin, who was inducted into the AHSAA High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, was also inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 as a Distinguished American Sportsman.

Born in Selma Nov. 11, 1929, Striplin was an outstanding student-athlete at A.G. Parrish High School. He attended Spring Hill College in Mobile for two years and graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a B.S. Degree in Education. He continued his education at George Peabody College (now Vanderbilt) in Nashville, Tenn., where he earned his M.A. Degree in Education.

One of the state’s most successful businessmen, he created jobs and wealth in industry to improve the economy of the state through his many business ventures.

Instrumental in helping establish the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, he was a longtime board member and served as its chairman for more than 15 years until his failing health prevented him from continuing.

Striplin was also instrumental in establishing the Larry D. Striplin, Jr. Performing Arts Center and the Striplin Physical Fitness and Recreation Center, both in Selma, as well as the Striplin Baseball Complex on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College. He also served as chairman of the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board and served on numerous boards, including the Birmingham Business Leadership Council, the Alabama Sports Foundation and the American Sports Medicine Institute.

Named the state’s “Citizen of the Year” by the Alabama chapter of the March of Dimes, he is also a member of the sports halls of fame at Spring Hill College, Birmingham-Southern College and Belmont College in Nashville.

Details of his funeral services were not available Monday night.