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RLS coach released

Red Level coach Fred Kelley talks to his players during a time out at the South Regional Tournament in Mobile this season. Kelley has been released from his coaching duties at RLS. | File photo

Lining the cinder-blocked walls at Red Level School’s gymnasium are pictures of boys basketball teams past and present, and for the 2010-11 school year it will lack a familiar face.

RLS head boys basketball coach Fred Kelley has been released of his coaching duties after 26 years.

Kelley said he received a phone call on Thurs., June 3 from principal Johnny Odom who told of his release.

Kelley said he asked Odom why he was not the basketball coach anymore, and “he just said that ‘they wanted to make a change.'”

“Then, I talked with our superintendent (Terry Holley), and of course got to be heard by the (Covington County) board of education,” he said. “I met with the board last Tuesday, and they heard the case.”

Despite not being able to do what he loves to do, Kelley will still be teaching at RLS.

Of the situation, Kelley said it could have been handled in a different manner.

“I don’t think it should be done over the phone in that way,” he said. “I’d like to think I was going to be released and there were some prior warnings to let me know after I have already set the summer schedule. It’s the kids that are hurting.

“I’m sure whoever they get as a replacement will get started as soon as they can, but still I think it could have been handled in more of a professional way,” he said.

Kelley said that he received a letter from the board indicating that they “did not act on the case.”

“So, I was surprised—shocked to be honest,” Kelley said. “I just have been praying and seeking the Lord and have just been blessed to have been there 26 years at Red Level.

“In no way do I want to bring any negativism to Red Level, and most of all lose the testimony for the Lord,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful experience for me.”

For the last two weeks, Kelley said he has been “humbled” because of the amount of support the community has showed him.

“After coaching 26 years, and being a head coach 24 years, you just feel like you’re a real part of the community and the school system,” he said. “I just wish it were different. I don’t really understand the reason why I was removed from being the head coach, but I’ve got to respect the position of authority there.”

Kelley started his coaching career in 1984, where he served as an assistant coach under Jimmy Prestwood for two years. In the summer of the 1986-87 school year, he was asked to take the helm of the boys basketball program.

For more than 20 years, Kelley worked under former principal Johnny Taylor. Odom was hired after Taylor retired a few years ago.

“I’m just wanting to do what the Lord has me doing from here on,” he said. “I don’t want any bitterness or animosity toward anybody or anyone.

“It’s been a blessing to have the opportunity to coach,” he said. “The people have been supportive over the years. We couldn’t have had the program we have without them.”

When asked if he can draw any positive from the recent events, Kelley said it has let his family know “that we are greatly appreciated at Red Level and loved.”

“That’s not the way you want to experience it, but I am truly thankful for that,” Kelley said. “I’ve not told anyone to do anything, but pray. I’m just going to move forward and just do the best I can as a teacher, and support these kids and do the right thing.”

Odom declined to comment for this story.