COURTSIDE WITH COACH EDMONDS: Al Gooden’s 500th win is Hoosier history

Keith Edmonds

In today’s Courtside with Coach Edmonds, I wanted to share a few thoughts about Coach Al Gooden, one of Indiana’s greatest high school basketball head coaches.

It’s important to recognize GREATNESS and HONOR when it occurs, and this mention today is about Fort Wayne’s own Al Gooden. Coach has accomplished Hoosier Basketball history by becoming the FIRST Black Basketball Coach to secure 500 wins as a head coach.

He accomplished this tremendous feat by defeating Decatur Central High School on January 12, 2021 to secure his place in Indiana basketball history. Coach Gooden’s journey to greatness began in 1988 at Heritage High School where he worked for two years before becoming the head coach at Paul Harding High School, where he worked for 21 seasons. Coach Gooden won five semi-state titles and a state championship (2001) during his time at Harding High School and has generally been recognized as one of the state’s best coaches and an even better ambassador for the game of basketball. 

For those of us that have known coach for years – as a coach, I competed against his great Harding programs for years – what we have come to understand about him is that it’s always been PLAYERS FIRST. He lives by that, doesn’t seek out attention for himself in any way and credits several influences with helping pave the way for his success in basketball. Those he credits include Purdue greats Eugene Parker. and Walter Jordan. The main components Gooden credits as crucial to his success as a coach are his players and assistant coaches. 

After the closing of Paul Harding in 2011, coach Gooden took his place on the bench at New Haven High School where he spent three seasons and posted a 54-14 record. He then moved on to his current position as the head coach at Lawrence Central High School where he has gone 107-49 in secven seasons and coached Indiana’s 2016 Mr. Basketball Kyle Guy, who went on to win a NCAA National title at the University of Virginia.

Former area coach Al Gooden while coaching Harding High School. Gooden also coached at New Haven and Heritage and now coaches Lawrence Central. (File Photo)

Coach Gooden is often mentioned as among the best players to come out of our city (Wayne High School) and graduated from Ball State University in 1981. But in my opinion, basketball is far beyond what he has done for his players during his now 33 seasons as a head coach. Al Gooden has developed young boys into MEN. His players and programs have always been respected for their oft court presence as well as on. 

Coach Gooden demands that his players not only play hard but carry themselves as young men and understand that basketball is just a part of what makes them special. I have always respected coach for not only putting highly competitive teams on the floor but, teaching me as a fellow black coach the importance of making sure that my players carry themselves with dignity, honor, respect and represent their family, school and basketball program in a dignified manner.

He taught me the importance of pride and respect for what this game has done for us as coaches and to give back what has been given to us as “fishers of young men.”

Coach, you have done a lot to promote the game of basketball and teach young men how to be MEN and I for one will always respect and give you what is so richly due. 

Take a bow Coach Gooden because you’ve done it your way and we are proud of you. From Northwestern’s Trai Essex to Notre Dame’s V.J. Beachem. From Virginia’s Kyle Guy to Purdue’s Selwyn Lymon, you’ve had a hand in the careers of these young men and many players in between. I’ve enjoyed our battles as coaches (and even an occasional round of golf with you). Coach, a special place in Indiana’s Hall of Fame awaits you and it could not go to a better man. Congratulations on a job well done!

Keith Edmonds is a 32-year veteran of teaching and school administration from Fort Wayne. He coached boys high school basketball as an assistant at Snider High School, North Side High School and was the head boys basketball coach at Elmhurst High School for 12 years, advancing to the Class 3A State championship in 2003. Courtside with Coach Edmonds will appear every Monday at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. 

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