Kingwood girls basketball coach takes over boys program

Kingwood Christian School athletic director and girls’ basketball coach Johna Smith took over the boys’ head coaching position from coach Chris Monroe Jan. 19.

Smith, who has led the Lady Lions to an 8-5 record this season, coached both the boys and the girls for the first time this season Jan. 19 against Tuscaloosa Academy.

Smith said a change was needed with two weeks left in the Alabama Independent Schools Association Class 3A regular season. With the change, Smith is the only female coaching a varsity boys basketball team in Shelby County.

“Coach Monroe is a great coach, but sometimes things don’t work out,” said Smith, who is the first woman to coach a boys’ basketball team in the AISA since Michelle Ivey led the Marion Military Institute boys’ team before the school closed in 2009. “We needed to make a change.”

Smith said the Lions, who entered the Tuscaloosa Academy game with a 1-10 record under Monroe, played their best basketball of the season as they held Tuscaloosa Academy to a season-low point total in a 43-23 loss.

“I enjoyed watching the guys go to a different level,” Smith said. “I think the guys were excited about it. It was a good challenge for me.”

Monroe, who said he told his players he wasn’t returning next season on Monday, said he feels he wasn’t given a legitimate reason for being let go the next day.

“I feel I was not given a reason,” Monroe said. “At the end of the day, I feel I was let go because I told them I was resigning at the end of the year.”

Smith said Kingwood will begin the search for a new boys’ coach soon after the 2009-2010 season ends next month.

“We want to get the best person in here to coach the guys,” Smith said.

Benny Cunningham, the education paster at Kingwood, said he’s noticed a difference in the boys after their first game with Smith leading the team.

“I think the change was a positive,” Cunningham said.

Despite the Lions’ 1-11 record, Smith is excited about the remainder of the regular season and regional tournament, where the Lions can still make a run in the AISA Class 3A playoffs.

“We’ve got to make it a short season,” Smith said. “I think the guys are going to win some games before the season’s over.”