“My wife and myself are very excited about moving into the area,” Copeland said. “I spent most of my career coaching at Fort Payne. It was a 5A school, we played a lot of 5A and 6A schools-it was very competitive. I am very excited about taking over a good program and trying to maintain it and improve it just a little. I know there is a lot of good basketball going on at Sylacauga right now. I want to come in and work with these guys and make it better.”
Copeland replaces Josh Golden who took the job as Thompson’s head girls’ basketball coach. In two seasons at the helm at Sylacauga, he went 45-19 and earned a trip to the Class 5A Final Four. Coleman hopes that he adds to the success that the Aggies had in the past.
“I saw it advertised and our football coach at Phil Campbell owns a house in Sylacauga,” Copeland said. “Jason Hill is his name and he has coached at Shelby County and around that area. I just asked him in passing one day. I said the Sylacauga job is open and he said I know the principal. I basically did some research online and saw that they were very good. He said do you want me to call him and I said sure. I sent him my resume and came in for an interview. The principal and Coach [Matt] Griffith welcomed me and I am really excited. I know there are some good basketball players. I am looking forward to working with them and having a team that the town can be proud of.”
Sylacauga principal Matt Hubbard said that Copeland had stellar references from his previous employers.
The Aggies lost 10 seniors off last season’s team that went 20-9. One of the first things that Copeland wants to do at the helm of the Aggies is determine what kind of talent he has for this upcoming season.
“I think one of the first things that I will do is tell the players what is expected out of them on and off the floor,” Copeland said. “Once I am there I just want to see how they play the first day. I want to see the hand I have been dealt and go from there. I am going to watch them play to determine what style of play that we need to be playing and what we need to work on to become better for the season.”
From 2002-2010, Copeland served as an assistant coach at Fort Payne. In 2010, he took over Phil Campbell. In three seasons, he recorded 44 wins.
“My first year, we basically started from scratch,” Copeland said. “We had one guy coming back. We came in and really started working in the summer to try to improve. We played good competition to try to get better. The first year, we were 11-18 and the next year we flipped it, we were 18-13. My first two seasons, we made the Sub-Regional tournament and this was the first time we made the postseason since 2005. My last two years, we won the area.
Adversity helped Copeland become a better coach and better leader for his team. The Phil Campbell community was destroyed after the April 2011 tornados. Copeland was able to schedule practices and games at different locations.
“Our second season, our school was destroyed by the April 27 tornado,” Copeland said. “We had 30 people that were killed in the town. We had to practice at 13 different gyms; we had to go to a community college to play our games. We had to share with Hackleburg, because their gym was destroyed. We had nowhere else to go. It was a lot of work that had to be put in, but we still won 18 games. We won the regular season area, we got beat in the sub-region by Alabama Christian. Last year, we really beefed up our schedule, we won 15 games and we got beat in the first round of the area tournament.”
Hubbard was impressed with the way that Copeland was able to handle the responsibility after the F5 tornado changed the way of life in Phil Campbell.
“We were looking for a coach that had real good communication skills,” Hubbard said. “Was real organized and a good planner because in the next two years we are going to be dealing with construction to the new gymnasium. One of those seasons we are going to have to play at our middle school. We were really looking for someone who had enough experience to handle that type of organization. It was really amazing when we broke that topic in the interview he said look… I have scheduled practices and games in 13 different gyms. He said scheduling practices and games for us wont be a problem. Then, he went into the destruction the tornado did to Phil Campbell High School. That was an unique skill set that he brings to the table as being well organized, you have to be a good communicator to plan practice at different places and games at different places for your high school and middle school programs. It was really interesting that he got that experience.”