Albany High boys basketball coach and athletic director Archie Chatmon has been at AHS since 1984 and has touched countless lives in nearly every sport in the 29 years he has been an Indian
ALBANY — He is the heartbeat and soul of Albany High, a man who has given his lifetime to the students and athletes there. Archie Chatmon is the face of Albany High.
“Well, it’s not a pretty face,’’ said Chatmon, who has been part of Albany High for 29 years.
He’s been a teacher, a coach, a mentor, a leader so much more, and on Monday night Chatmon will be inducted into the Albany Sports Hall of Fame.
“This is such an honor,’’ said Chatmon, a legendary basketball coach who has won more than 300 games. “Never in a million years did I ever dream this could happen. In my mind it doesn’t connect — Archie Chatmon and Hall of Fame. Right now it’s hard to grasp. It’s the elite. It’s special.’’
Chatmon wouldn’t have even put his name in the hat on his own.
“A good friend kept telling me to apply, and I finally did,’’ Chatmon said.
Chatmon continued: “I forgot all about it. I was thinking if they just consider me it would be a great honor. If they are sitting in a meeting and talking about me that would have been enough for me. To be included in the Hall of Fame with the great names that are there, I don’t even know what to say.’’
Chatmon, 55, has touched the lives of countless students and athletes.
“He has been an inspiration to me,’’ said Albany High head football coach Felton Williams, who played for Chatmon at Albany High. “I’ve known him since middle school, and he was always such a positive role model and father figure to kids with and without a father. He was a great role model for me and everyone else who knew him. Growing up in that particular part of town back then, it was not a good neighborhood and we needed a role model. He helped every kid in the neighborhood as a mentor and role model. He is still a great mentor and role model to the kids at Albany High today.
“He’s the reason I’m doing what I’m doing today,’’ Williams said. “He was an inspiration to me and so many others. He helped me growing up, and after I became a coach he helped inspire me to go back to school. He is the face of Albany High. It is so deserving that he is going into the Hall of Fame.’’
Chatmon always embraced his job.
“He is such a caring coach,’’ Williams said. “I remember an instance when I was in high school and I had a freak accident in a track meet, and the baton bounced up and — back then the batons weren’t smooth like today — the baton hit me and the sharp edge cut my ear, just sliced it. He took me home, got it bandaged and took me to the hospital. I’ll never forget that. He is a such a great man. He’s my assistant coach on the football team, and I still have a hard time believing I’m the head coach and he’s my assistant. He is a man everyone respects.’’
Irony can be bittersweet. Chatmon never thought he would coach basketball and if he did, he sure didn’t think it would be at Albany High.
“My dream was to be a coach at Westover,’’ said Chatmon, who graduated from Westover in 1976 and earned a basketball scholarship to Georgia Southwestern. “And when I say dream, that dream didn’t have the words ‘head coach’ in it. I just wanted to be an assistant coach at Westover.’’
And basketball was never his first love.
“No, my favorite sport was football, but I was from an era where you played everything,’’ Chatmon said. “I was a good athlete, so I played football, baseball, basketball and track. You just played all the sports back then.’’
Then he had to give up football.
“I was diagnosed with a heart murmur when I was 12,’’ Chatmon said. “And that was a serious thing back then. The doctor told my mother I couldn’t play football. I could play basketball, baseball and be on the track team, but no football. I guess he was afraid of the impact.’’
Chatmon played basketball at Westover, where he was a star. He started immediately and was The Herald’s Newcomer of the Year. He was named to the all-region team every year and averaged 18 points and seven assists a game as a senior. He set the Westover record for career assists, which has since been broken, but he stamped his name on the basketball court there. He also was on the track & field team and went to state in the long jump.
“Back then everyone played baseball, but I assumed I couldn’t play baseball and be on the track team at the same time,’’ Chatmon said. “I never inquired about being able to play baseball, too. So I ended up on the track team.’’
That’s where he found his roots as a coach.
“I started thinking about becoming a coach when I was in 10th grade,’’ he said. “We would break up into groups at practice and the coaches told me to help out and mentor the other kids in the long jump and triple jump. That was my first experience as a mentor, and that’s when I first started thinking about becoming a coach.’’
Chatmon was a four-year letterman and four-time all-conference long jumper, and a four-year letterman in tennis at GSW, where he was a three-year letterman in basketball.
He graduated with a degree in physical education in 1981 and later earned a masters in education at Albany State and a masters in educational leadership at Troy State University.
He started his coaching career in 1981 at Pelham High School, where he was a physical education and health teacher and an assistant basketball and football coach. A year later Chatmon came home to Albany, where he was a math and science teacher at the in-school suspension center. In 1984 he came to Albany High as teacher and as an assistant coach in football, basketball and track & field.
He never left.
Chatmon took over as the head basketball coach in 1986 and took the Indians through some glory years, including two trips to the state finals. Albany High finished second, losing to Chatmon’s alma mater, Westover, in both title games. His team also went to the Final Four during that three-year stretch.
“Those four or five years in the early 1990s when we lost to Westover twice in the state championship were the golden era of basketball in Albany,’’ Chatmon said. “Monroe and Dougherty had awesome teams, too. Chris Cameron, who is also being inducted in the Hall of Fame, was on Dougherty’s teams for four of those years.
“Those years were magical years for Chris, myself and all of Albany. We had great teams. We just couldn’t get over that juggernaut at Westover. I have never seen a better team than those teams at Westover. People talked about Eagles Landing (as being the best team in Georgia this year and being a super team), but that team’s not even close to those Westover teams.’’
Chatmon’s 2012 team was one of the best in Georgia and fell just short of the Final Four, losing a controversial game in Savannah. But the true measure of a great coach is what he does year-in and year-out, and every coach who faces Chatmon’s teams knows Chatmon will bring the best out of what he has.
His 2013 team started the season without a returning starter and a roster full of freshmen and sophomores, and yet they took the two top teams in Southwest Georgia — Monroe and Westover — into overtime, and reached the playoffs.
“You know when you play Archie that his team will be prepared and well-coached,’’ Westover coach Dallis Smith said. “And you see what he did with his team this year and how that team looked at the beginning of the year and by the end of the year the way they played. They came a long way. Archie is a very smart coach. I have a lot of respect for him.’’
Chatmon has won a long list of awards as a coach, including The Herald’s Coach of the Year and has been named the state basketball Coach of the Year four times. He has been named the region Coach of the Year multiple times, and has been the head coach of the Georgia-USA All-Star Game and GHSA All-Star Game.
Chatmon was the director of Albany’s annual Christmas Basketball Tournament from 2001 through 2010, and he takes great pride in that tournament and what it meant to basketball fans.
“When I look back on it (my career) one thing that stands out is the Christmas tournament. That’s something all of us, Willie Boston, Charlie Givens and everyone, dreamed of,’’ said Chatmon, referring to two of Albany’s all-time legendary coaches. “We set out to bring in the best teams to the tournament, and we did a pretty good job of that. We brought in teams not only in the state but from around the country. We brought in teams from Florida, Alabama and a team from as far away as Washington, D.C. We wanted the fans in Albany to get a chance to see some of the best teams and the best players. That’s one of my proudest things.’’
Chatmon still helps coach football and track & field, and has been Albany High’s athletic director for the past seven years. He’s been married to his wife, Virginia, for 28 years and his son, Bryan, and daughter, Amber, are both in college.
He has touched so many lives over the years.
“It’s gone by so fast,’’ Chatmon said. “It was one of those Mama-told-you things. She would always say, ‘The older you get the faster it goes.’ I know that’s true. You can’t take it for granted. You have to make the best of it. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here 30 years, and it’s so hard for me to believe I’m going into the Hall of Fame. I’m quite honored and humbled at the same time. I’m still pinching myself.’’