Sports

January 13, 2014

Longtime coach, Bob Campbell, gets high honor at Bagley Middle

Hundreds of Murray County middle-schoolers at one time have called Bob Campbell their basketball coach. They probably have vivid memories of playing for him.

If the basketball court at Bagley Middle School had a memory, it would remember Campbell’s name for the hundreds of games he spent walking the hardwood for games and practices.

Now, the court won’t need to remember — it’ll just assume his name.

A ceremony will take place at 4:15 p.m. today at the school to dedicate and rename the court in Campbell’s name. The coach said he will resign after this season, his 25th coaching basketball at the school.

Campbell earned his 350th win last Thursday when the eighth-grade boys defeated Valley Point. Campbell coaches both the seventh-grade and eighth-grade boys teams. He has done so for two-and-a-half decades, a tenure that has built a legacy in the county.

“Everyone knows coach Campbell,” Bagley principal Spencer Gazaway said. “He is a mainstay and his influence will be felt for many years to come. He’s someone that after you leave school is someone people still keep in touch with.”

Campbell, 65, is from Hazard, Ky., and attended the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky. He moved to Murray County and began coaching basketball at Bagley Middle in 1988. During those 25 years, he’s also sporadically been the school’s golf coach. While he’s received offers to be an assistant coach for Murray County High’s basketball teams, he always stayed with the seventh- and eighth-graders.

“I love working with kids and that’s obvious — dedicating my life to kids,” he said. “I just put everything I’ve got into it.”

Campbell won two North Georgia Athletic League championships with the eighth-grade team, one in 1997-1998 and another in 2006-2007. In the latter season, the Braves finished 17-0. Many of his players went on to wear the green and white at Murray County High, like current North Murray High girls coach Keith Robinette.

“Bagley Middle had just been open for a few years (when Campbell started there),” said Robinette, who remembers playing for Campbell in the early 1990s. “I just played for him for one year. Back then, there was a different seventh-grade coach. He kept things fun. There were little things that broke up the monotony of practice. Kids need that. He wasn’t afraid to laugh. He wasn’t afraid to be not serious 100 percent of the time. That means a lot.”

Now, Bagley’s best basketball players head to North Murray High and wear the black and yellow, like Zach Vess and Zach Sanford did. The new high school opened in 2010.

Vess, a freshman player at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, is a 2013 North Murray graduate who won The Daily Citizen’s 2012-2013 All-Area Player of the Year award. He and Sanford led the Mountaineers to the second round of the Class 3A state tournament last season.

“He has coached a lot of the Murray County greats for sure,” Vess said. “I remember when he came and talked to me the first time in rec ball. I wasn’t the best player in middle school. He’s fair.”

Sanford called Campbell “a coaching legend in our area” and was excited to play for him when he joined the Bagley team as a seventh-grader.

“I think he definitely deserves this,” said Sanford, a freshman at Kennesaw State University, “because he put in so much time into Bagley and especially the basketball program at Bagley.”

In his final year, Campbell has Bagley’s eighth-grade team at 7-1 and eyeing another league title. With it being Campbell’s last year, Gazaway and school officials knew a court dedication was proper.

“We had discussed that as an administration for the past couple years,” Gazaway said. “He recently earned his 350th career victory. With this being his last year, we felt it was a great time to do the court dedication.”

Campbell’s goal during the ceremony is simple.

“I’m sure I’ll be emotional,” he said. “I hope I don’t cry. Let’s put it that way.”

The emotion stems from love — for both the sport and the kids who play it.

“I think people underestimate how much he has done for the game in Murray County,” Vess said. “That’s his love.

“I love the game, but he loves it on a whole new level.”

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