STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Ronnie Stapler honored as Legend of the Hardwood

Westminster Christian Academy head boy's basketball coach Ronnie Stapler has been in the coaching game for more than 40 years for teams around North Alabama.

Posted: Dec 30, 2019 6:47 PM
Updated: Dec 30, 2019 6:48 PM

During this year's Rocket City Classic, Huntsville native's saw a familiar face step out onto the court. Westminster Christian's head basketball coach Ronnie Stapler. Coach Stapler was honored as this year's Thompson Gray Great of North Alabama.

WAAY 31 sat down with Coach Stapler after he received this award, and he says he was honored that they chose him and truly it was unexpected.

"It's usually given to somebody connected to the Alabama or Auburn program," Coach Stapler said. "I'm just a boy from Boogertown. I'm not connected to either one of them Alabama or Auburn either one. I guess they saw I was getting old. I've been in this for 49 years. So they felt sorry for me."

Contrary to what Stapler believes, he has earned the title of Legend of the Hardwood.

"I actually started coaching in 1969. I coached a 7th grade team at forest hill middle school in 1969," Stapler said. "Then I got the assists job at Grissom, and then three years later I was the head coach at 26 years old at the third biggest school in Alabama."

Stapler coached at Grissom for 33 seasons, winning two State Championships with an overall record of 485-283. He left Grissom in 2002, went out to Guntersville and lead the Wildcats for five years, then he moved on to coaching the girl's team at Randolph, that's when Westminster Christian came knocking.

"In my second year at Randolph. Coach Spivey who's the AD here called me and said, 'My boy's job is coming open, would you be interested?' I said, 'Coach I'd love to but I told these little girls that I stay, I started with them as 9th graders and I told them I would stay with them through their senior year.' And the way the good Lord works, after that fourth year he called me and said 'Okay, one more chance, I'm letting my basketball coach go, would you like to come out here?' I said, 'Hey I'll be there tomorrow to sign the contract.'"

Stapler's now in his seventh season at WCA. He won a State Championship back in 2016 and were the runners up last season. But for Coach, the wins and losses don't matter.

"I'm not stupid enough to think that coaching has anything to do with this," Stapler said. "Players are 95% and coaching is 5% and I've been lucky all these 49 years to have some of the best assistant coaches; guys who've played for me who've come back to help me, and they've just made it that much more enjoyable."

One of those former players turned assistant coaches is Kendrick Epps, whose relationship with his coach has lasted for more than 25 years.

When asking Epps how important is having a relationship like the one he had with Coach Stapler at such a young age, he responded with this.

"It's been life changing for me because I didn't know it at the time, but he was training me on how to be a great father, how to grow and be a respectful adult, how to treat people and how to treat my own kids."

Epps takes what he's learned from Stapler and tries to match the amount of love his coach has always shown.

"He does so much that people don't see outside of the gym," Epps said. "Just from feeding kids, to clothing them sometimes; housing them sometimes. Those were things that I learned from him and instill today that I really admire. Basketball is really just extra credit. The relationships we get to build with the kids, lifelong relationships, that's something I'll cherish for the rest of my life."

"I really don't like the games," Coach Stapler said. "I could care less about the games I just enjoy teaching the game, teaching young kids how to play basketball. We tell ours out here all the time. It's not where you play, when you play, who you play, it's how you play the game is the most important thing about basketball."

Coach Stapler was inducted into the Huntsville/Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997; has won more than 700 games in his career; been named Coach of the Year numerous times; but what makes him happiest is seeing his former players thrive in life no matter if it's in or out of basketball.

Huntsville
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 64°
Florence
Overcast
67° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 67°
Fayetteville
Overcast
63° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 63°
Decatur
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 64°
Scottsboro
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 64°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 133433

Reported Deaths: 2349
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19441349
Mobile13271291
Montgomery8778179
Madison775480
Tuscaloosa7496119
Shelby584951
Lee582961
Baldwin516550
Marshall390944
Calhoun346641
Etowah342047
Morgan325428
Houston278123
Elmore263247
DeKalb239120
Walker228483
St. Clair227837
Talladega212728
Limestone206120
Cullman188519
Dallas177426
Franklin175529
Russell17442
Autauga173825
Lauderdale168233
Colbert163626
Blount159415
Escambia158425
Jackson154611
Chilton153531
Dale135444
Covington134427
Coffee13078
Pike11879
Chambers115142
Tallapoosa114685
Clarke107717
Marion95729
Butler91339
Barbour8577
Winston73712
Marengo70820
Lowndes65327
Pickens65114
Bibb64210
Randolph63713
Hale62828
Lawrence60922
Geneva5995
Bullock59814
Cherokee59115
Monroe5818
Clay5707
Washington55613
Perry5407
Conecuh53111
Crenshaw53132
Wilcox53111
Henry4865
Macon48020
Fayette4438
Sumter43419
Lamar3632
Choctaw34612
Cleburne3396
Greene30315
Coosa1673
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 187690

Reported Deaths: 2312
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby30460452
Davidson26252298
Hamilton928791
Knox918175
Rutherford915088
Williamson516536
Sumner475896
Wilson341844
Putnam320139
Montgomery302244
Out of TN296825
Unassigned29145
Bradley289317
Madison280061
Sevier257015
Blount247723
Maury230923
Washington223935
Robertson219035
Sullivan212133
Hamblen188525
Tipton178118
Trousdale16517
Gibson160922
Hardeman154826
Wayne14905
Bedford132017
Dyer131813
Dickson123515
Cumberland117518
Fayette117418
Coffee116613
Weakley115719
Anderson115312
Henderson115322
Carter114728
Obion11389
Loudon11356
Greene112943
McMinn110025
Jefferson109714
Macon103520
Warren10267
Monroe102217
Lawrence101211
Hardin100516
Lauderdale95915
Haywood95418
Franklin9518
Lake9142
Roane8724
Carroll85819
Bledsoe8494
McNairy84218
White8139
Cheatham80610
Rhea79812
Hawkins78316
Cocke7419
Marshall7415
Overton7135
Smith69810
Johnson6752
Henry6139
Chester60910
Lincoln6031
Giles58017
Hickman5585
DeKalb55213
Crockett52919
Marion5187
Decatur5037
Fentress4713
Claiborne4405
Campbell4314
Polk38210
Grainger3633
Union3471
Benton3349
Jackson3175
Morgan3113
Unicoi2831
Cannon2800
Grundy2685
Humphreys2443
Sequatchie2293
Meigs2233
Clay2205
Houston2083
Scott2072
Stewart1902
Lewis1851
Moore1641
Van Buren1600
Perry1490
Pickett1102
Hancock1063

Community Events