TALLADEGA — Ryan Dawson, the longtime history teacher and basketball coach from Talladega High School, somehow found himself on the outside looking in.
Dawson, who has signature wins over Jacksonville, Alexandria, Clay Central, Benjamin Russell and Southside Gadsden in the past three years, was recently relieved of his duties as the Talladega boys head basketball coach.
“That took me by shock,” said Dawson, who coached the Tigers to a 13-13 record this winter. “The A.D. (Darian Simmons) called me in and basically said the superintendent wanted to go in a different direction. He wanted me to resign.”
Dawson, who led the Tigers to a No. 7 state ranking in Class 5A three seasons ago, wasn’t about to quit. The coach instead was forced out as the Talladega boys head basketball coach just weeks ago.
“I wasn’t going to quit on my kids,” Dawson said. “We never quit. I teach more than just basketball. I have taught lifelong lessons. I’ve enjoyed the relationships (with the players). I’ve had my players over to my house, just to talk.”
On Monday night, Talladega city schools announced that Darian Simmons will replace Dawson as boys varsity basketball coach and that Rebecca Williams will take over the girls varsity volleyball team.
Under Dawson, Talladega boys basketball has had some highs, some lows, but always some coach-to-players heart-to-heart discussions.
Dawson is proud of what Talladega boys basketball has done in the past three seasons. The Tigers have compiled a 47-34 record. They won the county championship in 2021.
The same year, Dawson’s Talladega basketball quintet upset Jacksonville, which later won the 2022 Class 4A boys state championship.
“I love our potential and the kids,” Dawson said. “Coaching is my calling. It’s not just a job. I’m a player’s coach.”
He is also someone that cares as much about the welfare of his players as he does about winning. And Dawson knows how to win.
The coach has made a lasting impression on Talladega basketball players such as Roderick Jones, Terrance Swain, Patrick Whitson, and guards Najeh Swain, Xavion Millender, Jaquintez Garrett and Rlandis Jones.
They are the Tiger family in all their striped splendor.
Dawson and his basketball troops won as many as 11 games in a row in the past three campaigns.
And the coach is still a role model for the students and the boys basketball players at Talladega High School. Dawson plans to continue to teach history at Talladega, but he won’t be on the basketball bench and in the huddle for the Tigers next basketball season.
Dawson is still trying to get used to that fact.
“I’m going to miss the grind and the practices,” Dawson said. “We had some high goals.”
And the Talladega boys have some great basketball memories to lean on with Dawson, including a 101-point game against Lincoln and a 99-point outing against Anniston from three years ago.
The Tigers are still a feared team on the basketball floor. Ryan Dawson knows that.
Chris Fernsler is a sports writer at The Daily Home. You can call him at (256) 299-2141.