Coach Donnie Roberts talks to his team during the state finals in 2012. Roberts recently was named to the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. Photo by Keith Ledbetter.
Coach Donnie Roberts talks to his team during the state finals in 2012. Roberts recently was named to the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. Photo by Keith Ledbetter.

Archived Story

Roberts selected for sports hall of fame

Published 4:00pm Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Donnie Roberts has had a long and rewarding career as the head basketball coach for the Red Bay Lady Tigers, and this weekend he was given one of the top honors bestowed on a high school coach in this state.

On Friday, Roberts became one of twelve people in the state to be selected to the 24th class of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame.

When he found out about the selection, Roberts said he felt truly honored.

“I have had a tremendous career here at Red Bay, and God has really blessed me with the people he has placed in my life over the years,” Roberts said.

“This is a big honor for me, and I am just humbled that I would be selected.”

Roberts’ coaching career spans 41 years, and in that timeframe, he has amassed an overall record of 778 wins and 348 losses, making him the winningest coach in state history.
With those kinds of stats, it would be easy to take all the credit for his success as a coach, but Roberts said he couldn’t have gotten to where he is now without a lot of help.

“Coaching has always been a family affair for me, and I couldn’t have done all this without my family,” he said.

“I coached both of my daughters when they were in school, that was something very special for me to get to do. Both of my girls were on state championship teams, and those are some priceless memories.

“But there are so many other people as well who have helped me and supported me along the way. There are just too many to count. And the players are a major part of this, too. I have seen some great teams come through this school, and I’m glad to have been a part of it.”

Roberts, a Mississippi native who graduated from Tremont High School in 1968 and Delta State University in 1972, began his coaching career at his alma mater of Tremont High School.

Roberts said his dream was always to become a basketball coach, but coaching girls was something that was a last-minute decision.

“When I had the opportunity to coach at Tremont, I had to choose between coaching the boys or coaching the girls,” he said.

“I’d always dreamed of being a boys basketball coach, but my younger sister, Robin, was a ninth grader at Tremont that year, so I decided to take the girls team instead.

“It was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I haven’t regretted it since.”

After spending his first 11 years at Tremont compiling a 142-127 record, Roberts transferred to Red Bay in 1983 and has served as head coach of the Lady Tigers since that time with a 636-211 slate.

Since coming to Red Bay, Roberts’ teams have won the Class 3A state championship in 1993 and the 2A state titles in 1987 and 2001.

He also helped guide Red Bay to the state finals in 2000, 2003, and 2012, has made nine appearances in the Northwest Region Tournament, won 15 area titles and claimed the Franklin County Tournament title 23 times.

Also to his credit, Roberts has been inducted into the Franklin County Sports Hall of Fame, he coached in the 2001 Alabama-Mississippi Game, and he was named Class 2A Coach of the Year in 1987, 1993, 2000 and 2001.

And if his success on the basketball court isn’t enough, Roberts has also coached Red Bay to the girls state 2A track title in 2001, has coached softball since 1983, and has served as a football assistant coach.

But no matter where his coaching took him over the years, he always knew that basketball was his first love.

“I’ve always had a love for basketball, and I just believe that coaching was God’s calling for me,” he said.

“Being a high school coach isn’t exactly a career that brings in all kinds of money, but there are rewards that come with being a coach that you just really can’t measure.

“Seeing my players be successful on the court is a reward, but seeing them succeed in life is one of the greatest rewards.

“Of course we want to teach the girls about basketball and how to be a good player, but at Red Bay we have always tried to instill the value of character and class, and whatever happens on the court, I’m glad I can be a part of those kinds of lessons as well.”

After 41 years of coaching, there has been speculation that Roberts might be close to retiring, but he said he doesn’t have any definite plans at this time.

“I’m just taking it one year at a time,” he said.

“They’ve always told me that you’ll know when it’s time to hang it up, and it just doesn’t feel like it’s time yet, so I’m going to take it year by year and go from there.”

Roberts and his Lady Tigers will kick off the 2013-2014 season this Friday at Belmont, and he said he has high hopes for this season.

“Every year I’ve coached, I’ve always had the goal of winning a state championship,” he said.

“We set our sights high and work to live up to those expectations. We’ve got a good group of girls this year, and I think they will be successful.”

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