Trinity’s Tim Kelly poses outside the gym named in his honor. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
School names gym after longtime, championship coach
TRINITY – When Tim Kelly took the job as Trinity’s boys’ basketball coach, he didn’t intend for it to be a career-long passion.
Now he’ll be connected to the Bulldogs forever.
The school’s gym was named in his honor this week – Tim Kelly Gym.
Kelly is in his 33rd season leading the team. This stint began as a means to appease his wife.
“I came to this area because she wanted to move over here closer to her parents,” Kelly said. “I’m not going to lie to you, Trinity basketball was not a hot commodity. I planned to stay three years because all my contacts were Down East.
“Three years became six. Six became 12. Before you knew it, I was locked, which I’m glad. I’ve had opportunities to leave and go other places.”
But this is the place that Kelly nurtured. He said it turned out just right.
“Overall, in all those years, it has just been a positive experience,” he said. “(Each season) they don’t want to be the team that doesn’t carry on the tradition.”
Tuesday night’s pregame ceremony in the naming of the gym came prior to the Bulldogs blowing out rival Wheatmore 66-37. A plaque has been installed at the gym entrance.
Kelly, 65, said he’s glad he wasn’t asked to speak in front of the overflow crowd.
“It was much more emotional than I anticipated,” he said. “I’m honored. But the game is the main thing – the kids. If I hadn’t had good kids, this wouldn’t be happening.”
The Bulldogs delivered on this night.
Junior guard Dominic Payne racked up 32 points as Trinity (15-5, 5-3 Piedmont Athletic Conference) still hasn’t lost consecutive games this season. Gavin Strickland scored 13 for Wheatmore (5-13, 0-8).
“I think it was a big test for us and a bigger environment for us,” Payne said of the atmosphere amid the attention the game drew because of the gym naming. “I think we did really good with the pressure that we had with Tim Kelly’s gym.”
Senior forward Dylan Hodges said, “I’m glad it’s going to be his gym.”
Kelly had never been a head coach when he arrived. Bonds built and it became a long-term match.
“Over the years, they’ve all bought in,” he said. “Our culture has been able to maintain. The main things we’ve tried to get kids to buy into, they’ve done. I’ve had great parents (of players) for the most part.”
Kelly directed the Bulldogs to the Class 3-A state championship in 2004 and a runner-up finish in 2008. He has been in charge for nearly 650 victories.
Yet there have been style changes along the way.
“I’m not as verbal. I used to be a really hard, old-school coach, in your face,” he said. “I don’t do that as much, part of that is because my age.”
The building of relationships became as important as the game results.
“We want the kids to know we love them,” Kelly said. “In fact, I tell them I love them.”
Kelly said the support this week was indicative of the backing he has received for years in his coaching role. The gym naming was just another example.
“I think that will hit more when I’m done,” he said. “Right now, I’m still planning on coaching.”
In a light-hearted conversation with wrestling coach Brandon Coggins, Kelly offered a reminder.
“If you stay here 20 more years, you’re going to be in my house,” he said.
Then Kelly jokingly added: “Tim’s Gym”