There were so many obstacles to battle this basketball season for every head coach in the Lakeway Area considering the abnormal season.
Cosby’s head coach Kurt Brooks was not too sure how the 2020-2021 season would go after losing two of his top scorers due to graduation and piloting through COVID-19 protocols. Not only that, the Class A team in Cosby featured eight teams that were either Class AA or AAA.
Although it was not the ending Brooks wanted as the Eagles (15-14) lost in the quarterfinals of the TSSAA Class A State Tournament to Pickett County, it was a season that proved what Brooks meant to his team. After being the only boys’ basketball team to accomplish the feat of earning a state bid in the area, Brooks was crowned the Citizen Tribune boys’ basketball Lakeway Coach of the Year.
“It’s a great feeling and a great honor,” Brooks said. “It’s a huge accomplishment for me. It’s something I had no idea that I would even be considered for. I’m humbled and thankful for receiving this award. I don’t feel like this is just my award, though. It has a lot to do with my assistant coaches and players because, without them, I wouldn’t be the coach I am.”
The season was no easy task for the second-year coach to navigate through with the strength of schedule but landing a state tournament bid became possible after a postseason run.
A run that proved Brooks’s team could battle any type of adversity. A run that showed how much Brooks’s players loved and respected him as a coach and a person.
“I can’t tell you enough about how proud I was of this team this year,” he said. “For those players to battle through the adversity that they did show me who they are. I gave my all for them and they gave their all for me, no matter the circumstances. We believed in each other.”
The Eagles swept through District 2-A for the second year in a row under Brooks. He went 10-0 against District 2-A teams this season while earning Cosby a third-consecutive district title.
Nonetheless, Brooks earned his second District 2-A Coach of the Year award as he pushed his record to 22-0 in league play.
Cosby did not have as much success against the larger schools they faced such as Knox Catholic, Morristown East and the Class AA state champions in Greeneville. However, it only made the Eagles better as a team and Brooks better as a coach.
“I feel like we have a lot better year than what our record shows but we had a lot of tough games against larger-sized schools,” Brooks said. “The whole team learned a lot from that kind of competition and it helped us get to where we did. It not only helped every one of the players get better but it helped me as a coach, too.”
After capturing the District 2-A title, he knew the odds were against them to grab a bid in state.
Especially after what happened down the road.
The Eagles got their revenge on Hampton in the Region 1-A semifinals with an intense 55-54 victory and earned themselves a spot in the Region 1-A championship game.
As Brooks and his squad were in a back-and-forth battle against the Huskies of North Greene with a chance to host a Class A Sectional game on the line, Brooks was hit with double technicals in the third quarter.
The Eagles saw their coach removed from the game and had to finish with acting coach Cody Lowe, the head coach of the Cosby girls’ basketball program. The ejection only gave the Eagles fuel the rest of the way.
“I wish it could’ve gone differently,” Brooks said. “My guys were out there fighting for me each game that I was not there, though. (Lowe) did a phenomenal job filling in as head coach for me. I can’t thank my coaching staff enough. I’m so thankful to be a part of a team that shows that kind of passion for me as their coach.”
Although Cosby came up short without their coach in a 71-68 loss, the determination to make it to Murfreesboro for Brooks never left the players after that night.
The next game on the road against Harriman showed just how much he meant to not only his players but the Cosby community.
Lowe stepped in as acting coach once again while Brooks served his two-game suspension, watching the game on a live stream across the street of Harriman High School. The Eagles’ fans packed the gym while Cosby battled gutted out a 57-47 victory to send them to state.
Instead of celebrating inside, the team, assistant coaches and fans rushed outside to find Brooks in the parking lot to celebrate the special moment.
Seniors Hunter Workman and Trey Johnson of Cosby dedicated the victory to Brooks in their post-game interviews.
“We wanted to win for Coach Brooks,” Workman said for both of them. “Whenever he was ejected, it only gave us fuel to add to the fire to win games and reach the state tournament.”
Unfortunately, Brooks had to miss the Class A State Tournament Quarterfinals game against Pickett County as the Eagles lost in a 63-56 contest.
No matter the outcome, Brooks realized how much his players, coaches and community were behind him as he could not coach the final two games of the 2020-2021 season.
It was a testimony to what kind of impact he had on the boys’ basketball program.
“I can’t say enough about what the Cosby community means to me,” he said. “Even though I went to a rival school in Cocke County during my high school days, Cosby has accepted me as one of their own. They are always there for me and they believed in me 100% no matter what happened.”
Brooks guided the way for the Eagles as they were one of eight teams left standing in their respective league.
He didn’t rack up a 20-win season or win a gold ball but the Eagles exceeded expectations that the outsiders had. His passion for his community and players led him to grab the Citizen Tribune Lakeway Coach of the Year award.
“We knew we had a couple of guys that could lead us,” Brooks said. “There is so much credit that goes to the young guys who stepped up. I think seeing us come together as a team like that, in the end, made it all worth it.”
Brooks is the first coach from Cosby to win the award but all of the credit went to his assistant coaches, players and the fans.
“This is an award for Cosby not for me,” he said. “The coaches beside me all year, the players on the court that trusted me and bought into what I said, and the community of the Cosby basketball fans who were right there with us through the whole season. I can’t thank the community enough for accepting me as one of their own and helping earn this award.”
He can now add Citizen Tribune Lakeway Coach of the Year as a high to such an up and down season.