CHILDERSBURG — Three tasks were all that stood between Childersburg girls basketball coach Gavin King and the door Tuesday morning.
He needed to pack up his office, stuff report cards in envelopes and finish some paperwork.
But before he could get to any of that, he wanted to show off the new banners commemorating the girls team for winning its area 12 times since 2004 and a sub-regional matchup eight times over that same 17-year stretch.
"It was just going to take a lot to leave here," King said. "I was prepared to be here for the next four years because obviously there is going to be a lot of fun times here with the talent coming up."
When King left Tuesday, his time with Childersburg came to an end. He could finally give all of his attention to the Homewood girls basketball team now.
It was a welcome relief for a coach who had spent the last month juggling responsibilities with two schools, but King's final hours at Childersburg wasn't without a dash of wistfulness.
"There will be a couple of new faces on the team that weren't on the team last year that will be major impact players," King said. "When you look, every team on the schedule is losing more than Childersburg is losing, plus Childersburg is gaining more players. There is no reason Childersburg can't get back to the Sweet 16."
Since King's arrival before the 2018 season, the Tigers went 102-29, winning both the area and a sub-regional game in all four years. Then there are the program's only Final Four appearances in 2019 and 2020, which have their place on a third banner.
Of the win that secured the Final Four trip in 2019, King said, "You know that is going to be remembered forever. … I remember that bus ride back to Childersburg just the feeling of knowing what we had just accomplished."
Speaking of the Final Four, King believes the Tigers could return there again, perhaps multiple times, in the coming seasons, in large part because of the success the Tigers experienced this season, making it back to regionals.
During the year, King felt his players grow frustrated as they lost 12 of their 30 games. The two groups before them combined to go 64-7, but those teams were much older.
In 2021, Childersburg started three eighth-graders, one sophomore and one senior that was starting for the first time in her career.
"I almost feel like this team accomplished something as special as going to the final four because of how much we had going against us from a youth standpoint and with some girls sitting out," King said.
In fact, King placed the recent run to regionals as one of his fondest memories from his time at Childersburg. Right up there with the first Final Four trip and his first trip to regionals.
When that first season got started, King was hardly the coach he is today. At the time, his coaching experience was limited to middle school and junior varsity. He'd certainly never coached girls before.
Regardless of gender, King knew he wanted to stick with his comfort zone. That meant playing man defense while running a full-court press for the vast majority of the time.
It was a nerve-wracking debut for King. The Tigers started 5-6 and had lost three straight when it came time for the Christmas tournament. Then the Tigers won it all despite facing two higher classification schools.
"From that point forward, we went on a tear and ended that season 20-10 and went to the Sweet 16. … from that point forward it was 3.5 more years of that," King said.
It's a run King intended to continue until Homewood called him out of the blue this spring. This wasn't anything new for the coach. Since his first season, King said he turned down five or more offers despite not filling out a single application.
"I knew if I ever left here, it was going to have to be a perfect spot for family and other reasons," King said.
But the chance to coach Homewood made too much sense to turn down.
Although it wasn't a deciding factor, increased time with his family did play a role. The shorter commute alone should give him four more hours at home per week and means his family can attend games more often now.
"You put four years of your life into a team," King said. "So that is always going to be tough leaving. It is almost like a freshman going all the way through high school after four years then graduating. …
"Sad for it to end, but kind of like what I tell the teams at the end of the season. Sad now, but years down the road you are just proud of what was accomplished."