Russ Wallace ‘back home’ to coach at Bibb County
Thu. July 26, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | By Andrew Carroll
CENTREVILLE | Russ Wallace, who led the Pickens County boys basketball team to AHSAA titles in 2010 and 2011, is back in West Alabama.
Wallace, who was at Class 6A Buckhorn last season, begins the new school year at Bibb County High School. The 41-year-old Wallace replaces Terry Morton as the boys basketball coach and will direct the linebackers as an assistant football coach. Wallace was an offensive coordinator in football during his tenure at Pickens County.
"I feel like I’m back at home, just 30 miles from where I grew up," said Wallace, who played basketball for coach Bobby Jones at Tuscaloosa County High School. "The situation at Buckhorn didn’t fit me. That’s pretty much the gist of it. When the opportunity to coach at Bibb County came open, I jumped on it."
Bibb County won its first AHSAA basketball title in 1970, claiming the Class 3A crown. In 1989, coach Charlie McCaleb’s Choctaws won the Class 5A title. Bibb County was the runner-up to Emma Samson in the 1992 Class 5A final.
Wallace said he expects his new team to be like his Pickens County teams in terms of toughness and aggressiveness.
"I think Pickens is a very good example of what Bibb County is, and Bibb County is a lot larger school (in Class 4A)," said Wallace, who had a 292-90 record in 14 seasons with the Tornadoes. "These kids have that same mentality and characteristics, which I like because all my kids at Pickens played football. We went right from having two or three practices to playing two or three games a week. We’re going to have to do the same here. With the kids I see on this football team, we’ve got a chance to go a pretty long way."
Wallace said three of his potential starting linebackers are planning to play basketball.
"Bibb County forever and a day has been very good athletically," he said. "I can remember back in the late ’80s when I played at Tuscaloosa County. We would always come over and play Coach McCaleb and Bibb County. There are two or three guys that their dads played at Bibb when I played at Tuscaloosa County, so we’ve already kind of connected the dots on a couple of those guys.
"I know about the tradition and history of this school and how important basketball is in this community. I’m going to try to do my best to get this program back to where they’re competing for those championships again."
Wallace’s teams won 13 area titles, made four appearances in the AHSAA semifinals and played in six regional finals. His 2010 team claimed the first state championship in school history. Nick Stewart hit a game-winning jumper, and the Tornadoes defeated Houston County 88-86 in triple overtime in the Class 2A final. Pickens County won the Class 1A championship in 2011 by beating Cedar Bluff 70-62 in overtime. Pickens County won its third straight title this year as Patrick Plott’s team defeated Cedar Bluff 70-59.
Wallace coached Buckhorn to an 8-18 record last season. He said progress was made as Buckhorn closed the competitive gap against some of the powerhouses in North Alabama. But he admitted that he might have "ruffled a few feathers" with his coaching style. He said that at the end of the season he and the principal "mutually agreed" that he should look elsewhere.
After getting the job at Bibb County, Wallace had only a few days to prepare his team for a camp at the University of Alabama. The Choctaws went 7-2 and almost beat the eventual champion.
"When you see the attitude and the mentality of these kids with their aggressiveness and with their intensity level and the love that they have for competing, I’m pretty excited," Wallace said. "I want to win championships. That’s what it’s about. I felt like we did a very good job with that at Pickens.
"Bibb County fit my coaching style. The kids fit what I expect with their work ethic. I feel like I’m coming into a situation where the kids know how to compete. We’re going to try to turn it up a notch and get them competing for championships."
Reach Andrew Carroll at email@example.com or at 205-722-0223.