I hope you will join me in saving Jan. 11, 2020, on your calendar, because it’s the date Snead State Community College will dedicate the court at Plunkett-Wallace Gymnasium as Coach John Kitchens Court.
Snead State invites former players, coaches, fans and community members to join in the celebration. A reception is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. in the administration building.
The ceremony will take place between Snead State’s games against rival Gadsden State. The women’s game will tip off at 1 p.m., followed by the men’s contest at 3.
Coach Kitchens’ impact on Marshall County basketball began in 1959 as the junior high coach at Carlisle Park in Guntersville. He rose to fame during his incredible run as DAR’s varsity boys coach in the 1960s, when his teams won three Marshall County Tournament championships.
Coach’s 1964-65 squad is remembered as the greatest in DAR history, as it brought home the Class A State Tournament crown. Coach and four of his players from that ballclub — Billy Ledbetter, Garland Franks, Jimmy Keller and Roger Harding — are members of the Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame.
John coached the men’s team at Snead State from 1970-88. Bobby Buford, Kirk Jonus and Patrick Harding are three men who played for him that became successful varsity boys basketball coaches in Marshall County.
Coach Harding is in his 21st season at Albertville and is approaching 500 career wins.
Coach Kitchens served as Snead State’s women’s coach from 1986-2000, guiding the Lady Parsons to three State championships.
Tonya Hinton Littleton and Jodi Gilliland Benefield were members of Coach Kitchens’ 1990 State title squad. Both ladies became successful varsity girls basketball coaches, with Tonya guiding her alma mater, Boaz, to the Class 5A State crown in 2001.
I loved to watch John coach a game. He coached with passion and always got the most out of his players. I remember times when his shirt was soaked with sweat, because he had worked hard on the sideline to help the Lady Parsons perform at their best.
In January, I wrote a column suggesting the varsity boys winner of the Marshall County Tournament receive the John Kitchens Trophy. I still believe it, because no one has enjoyed a greater influence on county basketball over the last 50 to 60 years. Coach Kitchens has built an amazing legacy.
I hope Plunkett-Wallace Gymnasium is packed Jan. 11 as Snead State honors its legendary coach.
Shannon J. Allen is sports editor for The Reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.