New AHS basketball coach Root-ed in tradition

By Andrew Alexander

New AHS basketball coach Root-ed in tradition

Parents of Coach Root, George and Nona Root, stand proudly with their son. Staff Photo by Andrew Alexander

Former Cardinal basketball standout Nathaniel Root assumes the role of Head Basketball Coach for Adamsville High School.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011, was a historic day for the basketball program at Adamsville High School as former head coach and acting principal Greg Martin handed down the coaching whistle to a man that once played his heart out for the Cardinals, and Martin, under that very whistle.

The lobby of Adamsville High School was a flowing sea of students, coaches, teachers, alumni, family members, and friends of Coach Root as he addressed the crowd after he was announced to be the new Cardinal coach.

“This is something I have looked forward to for a long time now,” said Root, “To come back home to Cardinal country!”

 Coach Root has no small task ahead of him in filling the shoes of Martin, a man named District Coach of the Year 6 times while leading Adamsville to 6 separate 20-win seasons,  6 district titles, 2 region championships, 1 state-sectional title, 2 state tournament appearances, and nearly 300 victories over a 16-year, iconic career as Cardinal head coach.

“I am most excited about following in the footsteps of legendary coaches Joe North and Greg Martin,” said Root, “I want to continue to build on the tradition that they have established here with the ‘93, ‘94, ‘95, and ‘99 teams, and what they have accomplished.”

Pressure is not necessarily an issue for Coach Root coming home to coach his alma mater.

“The pressure on me is to prepare these guys,” said Root, “... if they’re prepared, everything will happen. It will all fall in line.”

Root was an Adamsville student, and basketball player, from 1996-99, contributing to a state title run made by the Cardinals in the ‘99 season.

Root went on to graduate from the University of Memphis with a degree in Fitness Training Management, and played basketball for four years under current University of Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari, making two trips to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and one NCAA Tournament appearance with Memphis.

After a brief stint coaching the Cardinal freshman squad, and assisting Coach Martin during the 2003-04 season at AHS, Root accepted a head coaching position at Memphis Catholic High School, where he coached the boys’ and girls’ varsity teams from 2004-06.

Root then found a new home in El Paso, Texas, as he landed a position on the coaching staff at the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP).

As a mentor of UTEP Head Coach Tony Barbee, Root managed all of the team’s video operations and headed up summer camps for the Miners while holding the title of Assistant Director of Basketball Operations from 2006-10.  

Root remained on staff when Coach Barbee accepted a contract as Auburn’s head basketball coach during the spring of 2010, and continued his role as Barbee’s Video Coordinator at Auburn before Adamsville called him home.

“I’m ready to get back into the community and meet with the great fans of this program,” said Root, “and let them know that with their great energy and support they will be the back-bone of everything we accomplish.”

Root was adamant concerning AHS’s status as a prominent school in West Tennessee during his address to the Cardinal populous present Tuesday, stressing that he would strive to do all he could to improve upon the highly decorated reputation Adamsville has on the court and in the classroom.

“We will never take a back seat to the other school in this county,” said Root, “or the one across the river.”

Though coaching basketball on the high school level is different than coaching on the college level, Root feels he possesses the ability, and coaching knowledge, to overcome the challenges brought on by the differences.

“Your game planning and your strategies change,” said Root, “but I don’t think it’s going to be too drastic of a change for me.”

Coach Root comes from a fast-tempo, man-defense style of coaching, but not having a firm grasp on what exactly his new players will be capable of keeps him from labeling the type of game play Adamsville fans will become accustomed to watching in the future.

When asked if he would attempt to implement the types of plays and coaching style he had been groomed under, Root said, “... if I can, I will.”

 Root also feels it is imperative to remain active and vocal in the development of the young basketball playing community in the Adamsville area by staying involved with junior pro leagues and the Adamsville Junior High School teams.

“When you can have a hands-on effect with the junior pro and junior high, they get used to your terminology and the things you do, so that way it makes an easier transition for you, as a head coach,” said Coach Root.

Root plans to host a summer basketball camp with the help of Portland Trailblazer and former Memphis Tiger teammate, Earl Barron, who was present during Root’s acceptance speech.

On top of those plans, Root has many others that will go a long way in making Adamsville High School’s basketball program an elite one in Tennessee.

“They (opponents of Adamsville) are going to know when we walk in the gym who we are,” said Root.

The pedigree of coaches Root has learned under, and the contacts he has made since leaving Adamsville suggests that the new coach will not only improve the skills of his players while in high school, but also elevate their ability to succeed at the next level.

“I’m not here to turn their kids into LeBron James,” said Root, “What I can promise is that I will turn them into the best possible players they can be for the four years they are with me.”

There were several instances Tuesday when state championship contention was brought up.

When asked what an unsatisfactory season would be for the Cardinals Root simply said, “not winning it,” referring to a Class A State Championship.

“Making appearances in Murfreesboro is not acceptable,” said Root, “It’s not a great year for me. Winning it is a great year.”

The Cardinal basketball players look to live up to their new coach’s expectations next season as they return 11 players from last year’s squad, and by remembering what Coach Root proclaimed in the waning moments of his introductory speech.

“I will not be satisfied until we bring that gold ball home!”