Leo to lead Jr. ‘Dawg hoopsters, Gleason alum Roney to pilot high school program
Posted: Friday, April 8, 2011 12:04 am
By: Kenneth Coker, Press Sports
Gleason didn’t have to look far to find both its new high school and junior high boys’ basketball coach.
Jamie Roney — an assistant in both programs the past four years — has been named the Bulldogs’ new high school skipper.
Meanwhile, Chris Leo, who just finished his first campaign as an aide with both teams, has been promoted to the position of head junior high coach.
The duo replaces assistant principal/athletic director Lee Lawrence, who vacated the hoop posts recently to focus on his administrative duties.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for both of these men to advance their careers as coaches,” said Lawrence. “The advantage that we have over some bigger schools is that we’re under one roof.
“We’ve split up the responsibilities, but at the same time, both coaches will be in the same building. Hopefully, we can end up with the best of both worlds with each program getting the individual attention it deserves, while still working towards a common goal.”
Lawrence came to the conclusion that the job needed to be split into two positions after doing it for five years.
“In this day and time, I think middle school basketball is much more competitive and more of a year-round thing than it was in the past,” Lawrence said. “You need someone to focus solely on each program and on making it the best it can be.”
For Roney’s part, the promotion to the skipper’s chair is the latest in a long line of steps for the Gleason School lifer.
Roney wore the colors of the Bulldog basketball squad through junior high and high school, graduating in 1994.
He has been a teacher at Gleason for the last four years.
“I have a sense of pride for this school,” Roney said. “I remember coming and watching the basketball team and seeing some of the guys that were older than me and thinking what great abilities they had.
“I would like to have a winning program that the community can get behind the way it does the girls’ program. I want us to be the type of team that can make some noise come tournament time.”
To do so, Roney said he will continue to instill some of the characteristics that Lawrence did within the team.
“My goal, first of all, is to have a program with character,” Roney insisted. “That’s a continuation of what’s been built here the last four years.
“I’d like to see strong fundamentals, as well, and hopefully, have a team that is exciting to watch.”
Roney, who said his style of play will focus on defensive prowess while also being very deliberate on the offensive end, will assist Leo on the bench on game nights. Leo will return the favor at high school games.
Leo — a 2004 graduate of Dresden High School —is no stranger to the landscape of a small school at the junior high level.
The 24-year-old played his jayvee basketball at the now-defunct Palmersville School, which at the time was one of the smallest in the state of Tennessee.
“Gleason and Palmersville are a lot alike in that there’s a family-atmosphere and everyone is very close to one another,” Leo said. “I think that can benefit the team. The players are together all day. They know each other in and out and hopefully, that will translate on the basketball court.
“The biggest challenge I see is the pool of talent. Obviously, we don’t have as much as bigger schools do, but I hope we can make up for that with hard work and make the most of what we do have.”
Both Leo and Roney will have an assistant with a rich bloodline in Gleason athletics.
Bryan Sanders — a 1993 graduate of the school who lettered in basketball, football and baseball and is the grandson of Bulldog coaching legend Dudley Sanders —will be an aide within both programs.
Sanders was an assistant on the Bradford girls’ bench in 2007-08 when the team advanced to the Class A State Tournament semifinals.