There’s a family-like culture forming throughout the hallways of Centennial Center. With over five former Bobcats coaching at GC, coaches are leading on the same courts, fields and courses they once played on.
Maurice Smith, head women’s basketball coach, graduated as a Bobcat with a psychology degree in 2001. After graduation, Smith stayed in Milledgeville to work at the youth detention center. Two years later, Smith joined the coaching staff at GC in an effort to combine his passion for leading and mentoring with basketball.
But staying in Milledgeville for the long haul wasn’t originally part of Smith’s plan.
“I had intentions of becoming an assistant coach and using this as a springboard to get me to the next job,” Smith said. “But it’s hard to leave good people. It’s hard to leave a good, healthy environment. It’s hard to leave people who really care about you as a person and you as a profession.”
Ryan Aquino, assistant men’s basketball coach, graduated with a business management degree in 2012. Aquino played professional basketball in Germany before committing to coach at GC. He said he appreciates the culture at the school.
“The family feel, there’s something about it,” Aquino said. “The way I’m passionate about GC, a lot of the faculty are. It’s not just, ‘you’re here for two years and you try to move onto another school.’"
Golf coach, Patrick Garrett, graduated with a biology degree in 2013. Like Smith and Aquino, Garrett wasn’t planning on sticking around Milledgeville for as long as he has. He said he took the reigns from longtime GC golf coach Jimmy Wilson after returning for a visit.
“I had helped him [Wilson] out for a little bit throughout the years—helping him drive the bus and kind of acting as a volunteer assistant coach,” Garrett said.
A former sixth man on the prolific 1999-2000 Elite Eight squad in the NCAA tournament, Smith uses his playing experience as a role player to better coach his players.
“I often reference that role that I embraced and how it contributed to the overall team success,” Smith said. Garrett said coaching at the same school he played golf at has given him a dif- ferent perspective. Having been a former GC player, he understands how difficult it is to balance academics with athletics.
For Aquino, his connection to GC goes beyond basketball. His former teammates have become family.
“Basketball is kind of what brought us all together and developed those life-long friendships,” Aquino said.
As former Bobcats continue to stick around longer than they intended, it’s clear there’s a culture being formed. Whatever the sport, GC athletics is about more than just the score- board—it’s about family.
Photo courtesy of GC Sports Information