December 20, 2012 12:13:24 AM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerald Glass considers himself a teacher first and a coach second.
"I am passionate about what I do because I want these kids to do better," Glass said. "I push them harder because I want them to be better than I was.
"I don't want them to do the things that I did. I don't want them to make the mistakes I did. I love to teach the game. This is a passion of mine and an obsession of mine."
In his fourth season coaching his alma mater, Glass has Greenwood's Amanda Elzy High ranked among the state's elite.
The Panthers bring a 14-1 record into this weekend's Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Classic. Amanda Elzy faces off with Provine in the marquee game of Friday's opening round.
"We challenge the kids every day," Glass said. "That is why we play in tournaments like this. You want to play against the best, night in and night out. That is the only way you get better individually and as a team."
If several Panthers could follow Glass' career path, they would indeed be blessed.
A standout at Amanda Elzy himself, Glass followed his playing days with two-year stints at both Delta State University and the University of Mississippi.
Glass later played for four National Basketball Association teams in a span of six years.
While at Ole Miss, Glass finished as the school's sixth all-time leading scorer despite only playing two seasons.
"Life is not about short-cuts," Glass said. "I really try to stress that every day. Nothing in life is easy. You have to work extremely hard at it. When you think you have done your best, there is always that little extra you can give."
In his fourth season at Amanda Elzy, Glass is not the only Ole Miss alum coaching in this year's event. Former Rebel Rahim Lockhart is in his second season as head coach at Madison Central.
The 11-3 Jaguars face Gadsden, Ala., in Saturday's tournament play.
"These tournaments are outstanding experiences for your team," Lockhart said. "Everyone wants to play in the (Mississippi) Coliseum in March (in the state finals).
"To reach that point, you have to play good competition. You have to be ready to go. We try to fill our holiday with experiences such as this one."
Lockhart had a four-year career at Ole Miss. After that, he played briefly in the NBA Developmental League, before turning to coaching.
"It's a calling," Lockhart said. "Everyone wants to play on the next level. As coaches, it is our job to make sure the players are ready to play on that level. If there is a tip we can share here or there, that is what we are here for. Basketball won't last forever, so it is our job to help prepare these young men for whatever is next in life."
After his playing career came to a close, Glass spent one season as an assistant for Andy Kennedy at Ole Miss. He knew then that coaching was the right career choice.
"It is great being able to influence a great group of players," Glass said. "We take a lot of pride in the classroom and on the court. We give our all in everything that we do. It is a pleasure to go out there and work with these guys each and every day."
A year ago, the Panthers finished 23-5 and captured the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A state championship for a first time.
"The guys realized the hard work was paying off," Glass said. "We were really tested last year. We played a more difficult schedule and it paid off."
Both Glass and Lockhart feel like holiday tournament competition is unique in that it provides a look at different opponents and different styles of play.
"You step out of your comfort level and that is what provides the challenge," Lockhart said. "You get to face some of the top players in the state and coach against some of the top coaches. These are the learning experiences that help you when you are trying to win championships."
The Jaguars finished 16-14 in Lockhart's first season, losing in the opening round of the North State playoffs.
Madison Central previously played in the Capital City Hoops Challenge and plays next week in the Admiral Classic.
Amanda Elzy previously played in the State Farm Tournament of Champions during Thanksgiving weekend in Chicago. In January, the Panthers play in the Penny Hardaway Classic in Newbern, Tenn.
While gearing up for a state title defense, Glass is also enjoying coaching his son. Gerald Glass, Jr., is a highly-recruited junior on the Amanda Elzy squad.
Glass is averaging 8.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, with 21 blocked shots. Senior Janarious Middleton leads the team at 19.3 points per game.
"It has been a blast," the elder Glass said about coaching his son. "It has been fun. But it also has been a challenge. Like every other aspect in life, I relish challenges and I look forward to the next one every day."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter