Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Gavin Felix and Mike Sons stood together in the Sherwood Christian Academy gym Thursday afternoon, both sporting that unmistakable new-penny shine, that look that has "I can't wait'' written all over it.

And they can't.

Take the words "eager" and "excited" and mix in some adjectives that describe "energetic" and wrap a smile around it, and you get sense of both these coaches' mentalities right now

There's nothing newer than a new coach -- and now Sherwood has two.

Felix is the new boys basketball coach and Sons takes over the girls basketball program. And a program is what each wants -- building blocks and all.

"It's all about these young girls,'' Sons said. "It's about getting them involved (when they're young) and having summer programs.''

Sons has been here before, at Bethesda, a small private school in Forth Worth, where he took over a program that was barely a program at all and built it into state power in TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools).

He will have his chance to do the same in Albany. The Sherwood girls' program was average at best in 2010 and is coming off a 10-14 season that included a first-round exit in the playoffs.

"There's nowhere to go but up,'' Sons said.

Going up is just one of the issues.

Sherwood is moving from GISA Class AA to Class AAA -- the same spot the program was two years ago before being reclassified and dropping down.

In doing so, SCA will once again have to face one of the strongest programs in the state that just so happens to resides not far away on Nottingham Way.

Moving up to Class AAA means going head-to-head with Deerfield-Windsor, where the boys and girls basketball teams are in the state title hunt seemingly almost every year. By the way, the DWS boys team, which lost just one game last year, are the defending GISA Class AAA champs.

That's going to be Felix's problem.

He's young, enthusiastic and looks like a good fit to replace Matt Ruta, who turned Sherwood's boys program around in just two years before leaving this past offseason for another job. Ruta took over a program that had trouble beating anyone, and won 40 games in two years, leading the Eagles to their first region title since 20004.

The truth is, Ruta's team probably would have won the AA state title if its best player, Wesley Pittman, hadn't suffered a broken arm in the Elite Eight round of the tournament, where Sherwood's season ended in a triple overtime loss.

After the season, Ruta -- who came to Albany from Orlando in 2008 -- headed back to Florida, where he is now coaching in Tallahassee. So the Eagles replaced him with another Florida native. Felix grew up in South Florida and then graduated from New Orleans Baptist. He stayed in New Orleans and coached Crescent City Christian last year in his first coaching job. His team went 18-13 and made the playoffs.

"I'm excited, big time,'' said Felix about coming to Albany. "It seems like the school is well supported by the church and people have a lot of pride (in the teams) and are very supportive. I'm not out here on my own. I know there will be a lot of support.''

When Felix heard Sherwood was a scrappy team last year, he smiled.

"I like that,'' he said. "I just came from a scrappy team.''

While Felix has big shoes to fill, Sons has the former coach to help him get adjusted. Rebecca Fyock, who coached the girls team, will now coach the middle school team. That could help bridge the gap for a guy coming in from Texas.

Sons grew up in Fort Worth, graduated from Angelo State University, and began coaching in 1996. He coached boys at Lake Country Christian for six years until 2002 when he took over at Bethesda, where he took the program to the playoffs eight years in a row and to the state title game twice. He has won 311 games in his career.

Sons knew Sherwood principal Luke Bowers, who had been his athletic director six years ago at Bethesda.

"We had talked about this off and on just about every year,'' Sons said. "My wife and I felt it was a good time to make a change.''

Sons turned down a job as an assistant men's coach at York College in Nebraska before taking the Sherwood job, saying this was the atmosphere he was looking for -- both as a career move and for his family.

"We heard a lot of good things about Albany, and we've been here two weeks and we love Albany,'' Sons said. "This will be great for our children (Garrett, 9, and Maci, 6).

"As far as the team? I know nothing about them,'' he said. "I (just) met three girls (Thursday for the first time). But I'm excited to get started.''

That was the general feeling for both coaches.

"It's always exciting when you bring in a new coach,'' Sherwood Christian Athletic Director Alan McWilliams said. "It's going to be tough moving from AA to AAA, but if there was a time to make a change, this seems to be a good time.

"They're new and they don't know anything about the rivalry (with Deerfield) and all the drama, and that may be a good thing. They can just get down to business.''