It’s an opportunity Chris Berry had been waiting for.
Six years after leaving his post as boys basketball coach at Bragg Middle School for a varsity job at Tarrant High, Berry has returned to Gardendale, but this time he’ll be coaching a different sport at a different level.
“I left to take a varsity basketball job at Tarrant High School and just kind of made my rounds, but always knew that if a position became available to be a Gardendale Rocket again, I was always kind of looking for that,” said Berry on Tuesday, following his first day of summer workouts as the head coach of Gardendale’s girls basketball team.
After 18 years of coaching the boys game, Berry is confident that this transition will run as smoothly as his Princeton offense, at least in terms of the X’s and O’s.
“I don’t think the game is any different,” said Berry. “I think maybe how you approach certain personalities will be the biggest difference. I think the mental side may be a little bit different but as far as the game itself, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference.”
Berry coached at Bragg Middle School for nine years before making the jump to high school ball in time for the 2013-14 season at Tarrant. He led the Wildcats for two seasons, followed by three seasons at Oakman and one season as an assistant at Hueytown. Each practice, each game, every last blow of the whistle has echoed off the walls of a building built for boys basketball.
There to help in this transition to girls hoops will be former UAB women’s basketball player and assistant coach Holly Berry, his wife. Holly played for the Blazers from 1996 to 2000. She helped lead UAB to its only appearance in the Sweet 16 as a senior on the 1999-00 team. She scored 21 points in a 78-72 win over 3-seed Mississippi State in the second round of that year’s NCAA Tournament.
Holly worked as a broadcaster for the Blazers last season. Her and her husband have observed the recent success of girls sports at GHS and hope to carry that momentum onto the hardwood.
“Gardendale is an elite school and I think it has potential on the girls basketball side,” said Berry. “Look at what softball is doing. Look at what girls soccer is doing. I think the resources are here and I think Gardendale has everything in place that it needs to be a successful girls basketball school. I just think it’s going to take some stability.”
“I think athletic girls sometimes can just carryover from one sport to the next, so we want to get more girls involved in multiple sports,” he continued.
As a father of three, Berry wants to create excitement around girls basketball from the elementary school gyms on up through high school.
“Promoting the game at the youth level will be a priority for us. I’ve got a daughter who’s in fourth grade, so obviously I’m going to have a vested interest in what they’re doing at that level and really be involved from the grass-roots level—from third and fourth grade, all the way up until they get to us in ninth grade,” said Berry.
He and Holly recently held two days of tryouts and have begun their summer workout program with the Rockets.