TRINITY — When Tim Kelly first began his boys varsity basketball coaching career at Trinity High School in 1989, he said he thought he’d stay three years and move on.
But he said that three years turned into six years and six years turned into 12 years and then he realized there wasn’t anywhere else he’d rather be.
In his 34th season and with nearly 650 victories, Kelly remains the boys head varsity basketball coach at THS with one recent major change:
No longer will Kelly walk into what had been known as the Trinity High School Gym. From now on, he will be walking into the Tim Kelly Gym.
The gym was officially named for the longtime basketball coach in a ceremony held Jan. 24 prior to the Bulldogs’ Piedmont Athletic Conference win over rival Wheatmore.
The Randolph County School System Board of Education unanimously voted to honor Kelly in December and last week, in front of his family and a packed gymnasium, it became a reality.
“It was much more emotional than I anticipated,” Kelly said of the ceremony. “I am glad I didn’t have to speak. I am honored. I have been here and I have had great kids over the years and they all bought in.”
When Kelly first took over the THS basketball program, it was struggling. The Bulldogs reportedly had won very few games in their history prior to his arrival. It didn’t take long for Kelly to build the program into one of the most successful in the county, area, region and state.
“You have to look back at where you start,” Kelly said. “When I came, Trinity basketball was not a hot commodity. They had won 34 games in 17 years. That’s two a year. My time frame was five to six years, but by the third year or so, we were very competitive.
“I think we won nine games that first year, then we won 15 and then we had a down year, maybe 10-14. Then the next year we won 20-plus and it has taken off.”
Indeed it has. Kelly led the Bulldogs to the 2004 state championship, another state finals appearance in 2008, two regional championships, four sectional championships, 11 conference championships and 29 state playoff appearances.
But he certainly gave so many people so much more. One of those is THS graduate and current Athletic Director and assistant basketball coach Robert Mitchell.
“For me, he was a teacher, coach, mentor and he helped me through college and get my job here and helped me get the AD job,” Mitchell said. “He is like family. He has given everything to this community and we love having him.”
As one would expect, Kelly had a number of opportunities to take his coaching talents elsewhere. But he said he would always remember something from his childhood.
“I used to read the Gil Thorp comic every day,” Kelly said of the comic strip about a fictional high school athletic director and coach who led the football, basketball and baseball programs at Millford High School. “That made me want to be a coach and stay at one place.”
How much longer will Kelly coach? He said he’s taking that one year at a time.
“As of right now, I’m still planning on coaching as long as my health is good and it doesn’t feel like work,” Kelly said. “Right now, it’s still fun to come to the gym.”
A gym that now bears his name.