Andre Flynn, the head coach of the boys’ basketball team at Fayette County (Ga.), views his teams’ frequent trips to participate in Lexington Catholic’s annual holiday tournament as a learning experience. Forgive him if he sneaks away to have some leftover Christmas ham with momma.
That’s because she lives in Lexington, where Flynn was born and where he played college basketball. He was a high school star at Woodford County in the late 1970s before an All-America career at Transylvania University. Flynn scored 1,670 points as a Pioneer, still a top-10 figure at the school, which inducted him into its athletics Hall of Fame in 2010.
Next week will make Fayette County’s fifth appearance in the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic, an event to which LexCath Coach Brandon Salsman says Flynn has an open invitation every year.
“We’re not bad,” Flynn said of the team he’s bringing to Lexington this season. “Like always, we’re gonna try to press, we’re gonna try and run.”
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One of the players out there running will be Noah Gurley, a 6-foot-7 forward who has committed to Furman. “He’s our tallest guy,” Flynn said, “so in high school he kind of plays around the basket. But he really can play out on the floor a lot.”
Fayette County has not missed a state tournament since Flynn took over beginning in the 1999-2000 season.
In Georgia, eight state tournaments — seven for public schools (in ascending order based on size) and one for private schools — are held in basketball. Upward of 32 teams compete in the events, which begin in the middle of February and end the second weekend in March.
That Fayette County has never missed a state tournament under Flynn is an impressive feat regardless how a state chooses to crown its champions. The Tigers have reached three Final Fours and played for a state championship in 2008.
“We’ve been doing pretty good,” Flynn said with a laugh.
Flynn moved to Georgia in 1987 because his sister lived in the area. It was through her that he got an interview to become a junior varsity basketball coach at Fayette County. Aside from sharing a name with Lexington’s county, the school also sported the same black and gold color scheme as his high school alma mater.
“I thought that was funny,” Flynn said. “ ... I was like, ‘Man, this is interesting.’ It was so familiar.”
Four years later he became the first basketball coach at Sandy Creek, where he stayed until accepting the Fayette County head coaching position. Flynn, also a football assistant, coached future NFL star Calvin Johnson while he was at Sandy Creek, which emerged as a pigskin power in a state that relishes the sport. He enjoys exposing his players to the basketball crazies when they come to the commonwealth.
“They just see how fanatic it is in Kentucky,” he said. “We have an opportunity to go around, go to UK, look at Rupp Arena, get into the practice facilities. They love it. I have parents come and end up buying UK stuff.”
From an in-game coaching perspective, next week’s trip presents an opportunity for Fayette County to face styles of play it’s not used to seeing from teams in nearby Atlanta.
“Kentucky basketball, you’ve got some guys that can shoot, they’re gonna set their screens. They’re fundamentally sound, whereas in Atlanta they’re very athletic,” Flynn said. “They may not have that fundamental soundness at times, but shoot, they’re athletic and running and pressing and all that stuff. Just a different style.
“I like coming up and going against maybe some teams from the mountains that are gonna knock your head off.”