The coaching change likely will have little impact on the amount of time Roberts spends on the basketball court since he plans to assist Woodland’s Andre Royal with the middle school basketball team. “Of course my son, Peyton, plays at Woodland Middle,” Roberts noted.
He already coaches his oldest daughter, Bailey, who is a two-year starter on Woodland’s softball team.
Both children are named after University of Tennessee sports stars — his son after football great Peyton Manning and Bailey after Ed Bailey, a UT baseball player who later played for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1960s. Roberts became a passionate UT fan as a youngster, following their exploits on TV stations in Chattanooga, Tenn., from his Floyd County home, and remains one today.
Roberts had been Woodland High’s head basketball coach since 2006 and was an assistant with the boys team when he came to the school in 2000.
The graduate of Georgia College in Milledgeville said he got a good boost for his coaching career there because of his affiliation with its coaches. “I didn’t do any coaching there, but I had the opportunity to be around Bill Hodges, who was Larry Bird’s coach at Indiana State. I wasn’t a part of the coaching staff but I was around, and I learned a lot from him. I had the opportunity to be around a lot of good people.”
Hodges coached Bird in his NCAA title game against Magic Johnson and Michigan State in a matchup credited with launching March Madness as it exists today.
Roberts obtained his bachelor degree in health and PE at Georgia College and then earned his masters degree in education at Cambridge College in Boston.
At Cambridge he fed his passion for sports by taking a quick trip to nearby Fenway Park. “I got to travel up there and went to Boston Red Sox games and I attended the NBA summer games at UMass,” he said. “I got a chance to go to Harvard to do a research paper. It’s the best time I ever had.”
Roberts said he began coaching after obtaining his degree at Georgia College.
His first coaching position was as head baseball coach at Echols County, on the Georgia-Florida line. He coached basketball and cross country during his five-year stay there.
He also was head baseball coach, head boys basketball coach and assisted at sports at various other high schools throughout that region of the state over the next several years.
He said he eventually heard from Woodland and was interested in returning to his roots.
“I wanted to get back near Rome, my home town,” he said. “I’ve been here since 2000 — 13 years — and consider Woodland my home. I hope to retire from here.”
Roberts said telling his basketball team he was stepping down was difficult.
“It was tough telling them because of the love I have for them. I wanted to make sure they understood my decision had nothing to do with them at all. They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do. If the decision had to do with them, I’d still be coaching. I love every one of them. I told them I’d be supporting them. I’ll be at all their games. I’m still a Wildcat. I’m not leaving.”
He said his successor will inherit a good team that has drive and talent. “This bunch really improved this year,” he said. “We play in an extremely tough region. I thought they really got after it at the end of the year. I wasn’t tired after the season. We were full blast and we got better every day. I can’t wait to watch them play next year.”
Roberts said he has only good memories of his basketball coaching at Woodland. “In all my years coaching I have only good memories. I’ve had a lot of fun. I definitely chose the right profession. I wouldn’t do anything else.”
Roberts said that job has been made easier, too, by his assistant coaches through the years, including Glenn Harris, Steve Dunnington and Emerson Bridges.
“I’ve been blessed with good assistant coaches,” he said. “I try not to micromanage. I try to let them do their thing and they do it well. It made it easy on me.”
He said Dunnington was a head coach for years and contributed a lot of knowledge to help the team. He said Harris comes from a family of educators and is very knowledgeable about basketball and has offered to stay with him in softball until he retires.
“I’m going to hold him to that offer,” Roberts said.
Roberts said Bridges, who now coaches at Cartersville, made a major contribution to the team’s success, too, doing an exemplary job for the team during his years at Woodland.
“I’ve been blessed with a lot of good assistant coaches,” he said.
He said the school administration also has been very supportive.
Roberts said he’s not only had good athletes at Woodland but good students, too.
“In all the years I’ve been here, our girls’ academic achievements have been unbelieveable,” he said. “I sent out progress reports to teachers and checked their grades, but I wouldn’t have to. They are great students in the classroom.”