E.A. Sports Today

End of an era

Anniston’s Ware to retire at the end of the season, will continue coaching the Bulldogs until this year’s final horn

Anniston basketball coach Schuessler Ware will retire with no regrets after 19 seasons with the Bulldogs at the end of the season. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Anniston basketball coach Schuessler Ware will retire with no regrets after 19 seasons with the Bulldogs at the end of the season. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Saturday night, weather permitting, the Anniston Bulldogs will take the floor against Sacred Heart for the boys championship of the Calhoun County Tournament. A few minutes before the opening tip, a large man, bearded and bespectacled, will take his position near the end of the bench to begin an exercise that has been his passion for nearly two decades.

It will be an emotional night – for a lot of reasons.

The Bulldogs will be playing in the championship game for the 32nd time in the 65-year history of the tournament; they’ve won it 19 times. It will be Schuessler Ware’s last County Tournament final – at least his last as the coach of the Bulldogs.

Anniston schools superintendent Darren Douthit confirmed to East Alabama Sports Today Friday during the third quarter of the Bulldogs’ semifinals victory over White Plains the Anniston School Board approved Ware’s retirement effective Feb. 1 at its meeting Thursday night.

“It was approved last night,” Douthit said.

Ware will stay on to coach the Bulldogs through the conclusion of their season, formally as a volunteer coach, but when the final horn sounds after whenever the final game comes, he’ll walk away satisfied with the job he’s done.

“There’s no way in the world I’d give this up,” Ware said of leaving with unfinished business.

Even in retirement coaching isn’t out of the question. He said he’d be open to coaching part-time for a program that might seek his help.

There are no regrets about the decision.

“Not when you’ve done what you can do and don’t feel bad about it,” he said. “You’ll miss it, but you’ve given your all; that’s the main thing.”

How the Bulldogs proceed is up to Anniston High School principal Sherron Jinadu and athletics director Eddie Bullock. Jinadu declined to speculate on the future of the position Friday saying “we’re still trying to figure out … the next step.”

Ware is in the midst of his 19th season as the Bulldogs coach, the longest tenure in the history of the program and as long as the three coaches that preceded him. His current 411-164 record includes two state championships (2001-02 and 2008-09) and three other Final Four appearances.

He has won 14 area championships, eight of the last nine and the last three in a row. He has had a dozen 20-win seasons and has won at least 17 games 16 times, including the previous 10 seasons in a row. He has had only one losing season with the Bulldogs – and they still won the area championship that year.

The team that plays Sacred Heart on Saturday is 15-3 and has clinched home-court advantage in the upcoming area tournament.

“He’s an icon in the community,” Jinadu said. “He’ll be a tough man to replace and he’ll definitely be missed. He’s a valuable asset because of his relationship with his players; he wants the best for them on the court and in the classroom.”

Indeed. Senior post DeQuan Ross likened Ware to a second father and credits the coach for keeping him involved in the program when as a newcomer to the school he quickly lost interest.

“He’s always been there for me,” Ross said. “When I first came to Anniston from Alexandria my ninth and tenth grade years, I quit on him. But he encouraged me to come back out there and play and not be a quitter and continue playing with him. He’s a wise man.”

“He’s the best coach I’ve had so far,” leading scorer Tray Croft said.

Douthit has been a fan of Ware’s for a long time. He said when he was Anniston’s principal he occasionally watched the coach’s practices from his office on the school security monitors.

Ware said his players had been aware of the situation for some time but chose to remain silent publicly. He expects his senior-laden team to play hard all the way to his end and vows the coaching staff will do their best to prepare them in the games that remain.

“All of them will be like the ones from the beginning,” he said. “I’m going to play them all hard.”

WARE-ING OUT THE COMPETITION
Schuessler Ware’s Anniston coaching record

2015-16 15-3
2014-15 17-12 (area champs)
x-2013-14 21-7 (area champs)
2012-13 17-4 (area champs)
y-2011-12 18-11
2010-11 21-10 (area champs, Final Four)
2009-10 24-10 (area champs, Final Four)
x-2008-09 28-6 (area champs, 4A state champs)
x-2007-08 25-5 (area champs, Elite Eight)
x-2006-07 27-6 (area champs)
y-2005-06 27-6 (Elite Eight)
2004-05 14-12
2003-04 13-16 (area champs)
y-2002-03 19-12 (area champs)
x-2001-02 26-8 (area champs, 5A state champs)
x-2000-01 26-2 (area champs)
x-1999-00 26-7 (area champs)
y-1998-99 20-10
y-1997-98 27-7 (area champs, Final Four)
Total (19 yrs) 411-164 (14 area titles, 2 state titles, 5 Final Fours)
x-won County Tournament
y-County Tournament runnersup
Source: AHSFHS.org



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