Alan Smith was recently hired as girls' basketball coach at Grace Academy, and he's aware of the Lady Golden Eagles' past as he works in the present and toward the future.
Grace won 16 games in 2004-05 before following that with back-to-back seasons of 27 and 20 wins. The dominant run included three district tournament championships and a region title.
"A solid foundation has been built for a program with a rich history," Smith, 44, said. "We want to be true to that tradition and play championship basketball. We have to set the bar high because we have some talented young ladies coming back who want to win."
Grace will return six of seven players with varsity experience from the team that went 16-11 overall and 6-5 in Division II-A East District 2 this past season. It was the program's most wins in a season in 11 years.
The Lady Golden Eagles lost by five points in the district tournament semifinals to Notre Dame, which had won the regular-season district title. Silverdale Baptist Academy won the district tournament and reached the state tournament for the first time.
"It's my job to put our girls in the position to be successful and take things a notch higher," Smith said. "Our girls have great chemistry and a lot of potential. This is the most talented girls' team I have had, and I can't wait until we all get in the gym together. Nearly 80 percent of our team plays three sports, which is very commendable."
The McMinnville native began his high school coaching career as an assistant for Warren County's boys' basketball program. Nine years ago, he helped start the first basketball program at McMinnville's Covenant Academy, and this past season he took Covenant's high school girls' program to the Tennessee Christian Athletic Association state championship game.
"Coach Smith is very confident in what he wants to do and has a good plan of how to accomplish those things," Grace Academy athletic director Bob Ateca said. "Our girls had a strong season last year. We feel like this can be a top-tier program."