Bond calls it a coaching career after 31 years

Mar. 30—When Randall Hutto was a first-year assistant to longtime coach Hester Gibbs in 1984, a sophomore who had twice been cut by his middle school team was looking to make his mark with the Lebanon High School varsity.

His name: Troy Bond.

Bond made the team, which made a surprising run through the postseason to the state tournament. As his high school career progressed, he got better to the point he began attracting college attention. To make a long story short, the kid who scored one point in middle school (he was asked back to the team as an eighth-grader after several players had been kicked off), went on to play Division I ball at Tennessee State.

Then he broke into coaching, embarking on a 31-year career, the last 23 as head coach at three schools, which he ended this week when he announced his retirement as coach at Brentwood High School.

"It got to that point where there are a lot things I want to do," Bond said Thursday. "I still feel good. Going out on top, getting to the state tournament again was super cool, it just felt right."

Bond spent three years on the Brentwood bench, leading the Bruins to the state tournament earlier this month. Counting the state tournament he played in, the three he coached in as an assistant to Hutto and the seven he led to the final eight, it was his 11th state tourney in which he participated in.

Troy Crane, who had been his lead assistant since 2003, with the exception of a two-year stint when Crane served as Lebanon's head football coach, was named by Brentwood as Bond's replacement. Bond, 54, said he plans to remain on the faculty of the Williamson County school as an economics teacher.

After three state tournaments in eight years with Lebanon (during which he started the LHS soccer programs as their inaugural coach), Bond became the first boys' basketball coach when Wilson Central opened in 2001. He led the Wildcats to four state tournaments over their first 14 seasons as they went 294-148. He moved on to Oakland and, the last three years, Brentwood, taking both to the state and becoming the fourth coach to lead three different schools to the round of eight. He is stepping away with a career mark of 457-241.

"I was real fortunate to have an opportunity to work under Randall," Bond said, referring to the coach who took over for the retired Gibbs in 1991. "And I had Randy Vanatta (his father figure and longtime LHS coach who was killed in a traffic accident 11 years ago today) and (legendary girls' coach) Campbell Brandon in the background giving me some great advice. I took the head-coach scenario slow. Probably the big thing with a lot of the young coaches now is they think they are ready before they probably are ready. I had the opportunity to have eight years, and turned down a few jobs that I just didn't think were the right fit or was a great situation. I was just telling myself to look up to your mentors, to take their advice, try to when you get into coaching be you, don't try to be somebody else. I felt like it was something I was able to do with our identity as a basketball program."

Instead of going to an established program with its own set of traditions and expectations, Bond had a blank slate to work with at the brand-new Wilson Central, where he didn't have past successes to live up to or failures to overcome.

"When Wilson Central opened we were pulling primarily from Mt. Juliet, which at that time, Mt. Juliet had not had a state tournament team ever in boys," Bond said. "I was coming from Lebanon where we had just had three state tournament teams within an eight-year period and another substate team. A lot of people were saying 'it's not a great job, it's going to be tough to win there, you got a brand-new school'. "There's a lot that goes into a brand-new school, especially when we started had to get people to buy in. You had to put together two communities that traditionally did not like each other very much.

"I had great staff. Kay Smith was awesome as athletic director there, had a lot of great experience. (Girls' coach) Bud (Brandon) being there and Campbell (Bud's father and assistant) helped a lot. Learning from Randall, building a foundation of what you wanted to be and working on that. We established that and did it really well and became a noted basketball program in the state of Tennessee."

Gibbs was always one of Bond's biggest supporters, coming to games when he could and keeping in touch with his protege right up to the present day.

"Coach Gibbs just instilled a lot of characteristics in me that I still use today, even coaching-wise," Bond said. "He had a toughness in him like no other man I've really ever met. Playing for him was hard. It was a love-hate relationship, for sure. But he helped me get through so many situations with just being mentally tough. More so than Xs and Os, his was more of a mentality that he brought to the table to me.

"I was a late bloomer. But Coach Gibbs believed in me, would push me to work. And Randy would push me to work and establish myself as a pretty good ballplayer my junior and senior year and a little bit as a sophomore as well."

Hutto, now in his fourth term as Wilson County's mayor, has been out of coaching for more than two decades. He recalled when he and Bond were starting out as Blue Devils.

"As a player, he loved the game," Hutto said. "Even coming back as a coach, he would be involved as a player as a coach there. He would be involved in a practice some in that form or fashion. He loved the game and always continued to develop himself physically and mentally coaching. I watched him through the years as he continued to grow. The culture changed a little bit over time. We were pretty structured in my tenure there at Lebanon. The game evolved to a little more freedom, a little more one-on-one individual play. More motion offenses. He advanced with that as the time changed. I think he continued to call a lot of the same stuff that we did at Lebanon throughout his career."

Not only is Bond a student of the game, he has the ability to connect to players from all backgrounds, Hutto said.

"He was able to relate to all athletes," Hutto said. "He went to where they were regardless of their ability or their race or their home life or the culture they came from. He was always able to adapt to their level to get the best out of them.

"I think that's important in our world today."