After a quarter-century spent as a teacher and basketball coach, Sean Glaze had decided to take a step back and focus on another role of his — dad.
This spring, he resigned as head coach of the Kell girls basketball team and looked forward to seeing his son — the youngest of his three children and only one still in high school — play basketball his sophomore year and perhaps beyond.
Then came the chance of a lifetime.
Glaze and the Longhorns defeated Cass in the first round of the Region 7-AAAAA tournament this past season. It sent Kell into the state tourney for the third time in as many years under Glaze’s direction.
Although, Colonels head coach Burt Jackson was disappointed his team didn’t make a second straight trip to the 5A tournament he admired what Glaze was able to do. It’s why Jackson contacted Glaze when the Cass boys head-coaching job became available following David Brock’s departure for Dalton.
“I always felt like he got the most out of the girls he coached at Kell,” Jackson said. “It was always going to be a tough matchup. In my opinion, they were one of the harder teams to score on and that’s because he did a good job scouting our team and always having his girls ready. … Just one of the guys that I really respected coaching against in our region.”
The opening immediately intrigued Glaze, who had recently moved to Lake Arrowhead, due to its proximity and the opportunity to coach his son, Andrew, who will be a sophomore this fall. There was definite interest on the Colonels’ side, as well, given everything athletic director Nicky Moore had heard about Glaze from Jackson and others.
The only problem was that there were no openings in the school's English department, where Glaze had spent 25 years as an educator.
“I had several folks who are involved in basketball and involved in education, as well, had mentioned his name as a potential candidate and someone we should seek out for the position,” Moore said. “Unfortunately, at the time, we did not have a teaching position in the field that he was in. But just kept hearing great things about coach Glaze and what he brings to the table — not only Xs and Os from a basketball standpoint but just from building character in young people.
“As a result of some creative scheduling, … we were able to sit down and have a conversation with coach Glaze and felt good about what we could put together and bring him on board to be our boys basketball coach.”
Would Glaze be willing to teach an entirely different subject, in this case world history, after having already decided to stop teaching and coaching? The rare opportunity to coach his own son made it too good of an opportunity to pass up.
“Thankfully, he’s excited,” Glaze said of Andrew. “I would not have taken the position to have him as a possible player if that wasn’t the case. We actually had conversations before I even submitted my interest for the job. … He would come to me and say, ‘Dad, I’m praying for you to get that Cass job. I would love to be able to play for you.’
“That’s a very special thing for a dad to know your son isn’t just talented, which Andrew will be, but also mature enough to allow himself to be coached by me. When he was a younger kid, he probably wasn’t. … To have the chance to spend the next few years with him is something that I’m really excited at and I think could be very special.”
Andrew will be a part of a sophomore class that coach Glaze said has the largest number of kids in it, at least based on summer workouts. They will be tasked with helping fill a void left by three graduated starters (Ashton Burley, Mark Chester and Carter Hedden), each of whom signed this spring to play college basketball.
Replacing that kind of production won’t be easy.
Two starters will return from last year’s 17-12 team that reached the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs. Rising seniors Ethan Carter and Justice Hayes, who is working his way back from a hand injury, will provide experience in the post, while soon-to-be junior Jordan Ford gained valuable experience down the stretch last season.
It can’t be understated, though, how much the onus will be on the young players. Whether it’s immediately contributing at the varsity level or working to improve in the JV ranks for future campaigns, the ninth- and 10th-graders — most of whom were on conference-winning middle school teams — will be counted on to make an impact.
“I’m really excited about what we might become as a program here,” Glaze said. “We’ve got a handful of seniors who are going to contribute, and we’ve got a handful of younger kids who I think are going to surprise some people.”
Unless a promotion is made from within, it’s almost always going to be a tough transition when a new coach takes over a program.
Schematically, Cass will look much different under Glaze than they did during the Brock era, but he believes his players have bought in to his way of doing things.
“We’re going to mix in some press and some zone, but we will be, in terms of our identity, a really good man-to-man team,” Glaze said. “Offensively, I think you want to try to fit the system to what your personnel are but have a system that’s flexible enough that from year to year you don’t have to recreate the wheel every time. …
“We’re going to get good shots in transition, and if we don’t, we will be very disciplined, run good stuff and be selective in taking great shots.”
The Colonels’ schedule for 2018-19 had already been set before Glaze took over. However, he made it clear he loves to play a tough non-region slate to prepare for a tough region of which he’s plenty familiar.
He’s a hoping a rugged schedule gets his team ready for when it matters most.
“Great competition is a clear mirror,” Glaze said. “Sometimes bad competition is a foggy mirror. You don’t really know who you are. Great competition is a clear mirror that tells us who we are, and that’s what I want to know. Who’s going to be there, who’s going to be consistent, who’s going to be disciplined [and] who’s going to have poise in those difficult moments.
“If you don’t have difficult moments during the season, then you’re not prepared for them when you’re actually playing for a state tournament or the region championships that we’re hoping to achieve.”
Outside of the requirement of teaching world history and the obvious goal of winning basketball games, Glaze firmly feels that his job is to help his students and athletes become leaders.
It’s his full embrace of Cass’ “Family” mantra, which is emblazoned across their uniforms, that has Glaze and Moore excited about what’s to come.
“One of the things that attracted me to the job is that idea of family that you see,” Glaze said. “I wanted to make sure it became something that wasn’t just on a jersey or something that’s on a wall, but something that the kids really felt every single day was part of our culture.
“Part of our program isn’t just going to be practices and basketball, it really will be doing dinners together and doing some other things to build some leadership in them. So they’re not just better teammates with Cass, but they’re better teammates outside of [the school].”
Moore, for his part, has had the pleasure of introducing Glaze, first to the players and then later to the parents. He had the same basic message to both parties about what he saw in Glaze.
“I explained how excited I was about what he would bring to the table from a basketball standpoint in continuing our family atmosphere there at Cass High School,” Moore said. “But I also am even more excited about what he’ll bring to every student in our high school not only on the court but also in the classroom, as well.”
In a lot of ways, it seems Glaze and Cass will be a perfect partnership. In his eyes, the chance to coach his son and the other Colonels far outweigh any trepidation about taking on an unfamiliar teaching role.
Glaze definitely sees it as a challenge, but he plans to approach it the same way he expects his players to handle a tough situation.
“As you get older, you learn yourself a little bit better,” Glaze said. “I think that I would have a hard time stepping back from a challenge. I want our kids and our program — they say a team is going to reflect the attitude and character of its coach — hopefully, that competitiveness and that sense of drive and desire for challenge is something that our kids do take on.
“When I have the opportunity to test myself, when I have the opportunity to climb a new mountain, that’s something that I’m really excited by. Cass is, I think, a chance to take over a program where we have some really good kids and a chance to be really competitive on the court. That, paired with the teaching situation [and] paired with the opportunity to maybe coach my son the next couple of years was something that was very much attractive. Given that, with the people I’ve had the chance to meet, I’m thrilled to be here.”