Grace Prep turns to experienced hand to rebuild boys basketball program

Posted Monday, Jul. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Arlington Grace Prep boys basketball program is hoping to find some solid ground after a tumultuous last year or so, and the hiring of a former Mansfield High School coach Richie Alfred may be the beginning of that.

Alfred, who has 30 years experience in public education and coaching, including a stay at Martin, will step in to rebuild a program that was a state champion and nationally ranked as recently as two years ago.

Former coach Ray Forsett left Grace Prep for Prime Prep Academy last August, followed by four players. The Lions won just four games in 2013.

Alfred has plenty of experience resurrecting programs, and the circumstances at Grace Prep were part of the lure that encouraged him to leave Mansfield. He pointed out that every school he’s taken over, with Martin the exception, was in need of rebuilding.

“I’ve had a lot of experience in taking over situations where some changes needed to be made,” he said. “I know there are no shortcuts to success, and I know there are steps that need to be taken. I’ve won district championships and advanced deep into the playoffs. I have a lot of experience in public school. Hopefully, I can just draw from the experiences of a lifetime and get this program and these kids headed in the right direction.”

Alfred’s accomplishments include over 400 victories, seven coach-of-the-year awards, a dozen playoff appearances and coaching in the Texas High School Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game in 2011. About 30 of his former players have gone on to play basketball in college.

“I can’t say that I just jumped over there,” he said. “It’s not like I said, ‘This team only won four games. I’d love to take a shot at that.’ That’s not necessarily how it went. But, I’m looking at it like it’s a chance to start fresh.

“My approach is that Grace Prep is a brand-new school, even though it’s not. But my approach is that it’s a brand-new school and we’re building a brand-new basketball program, because truly we are building from scratch. And I just thought that was a great opportunity to be able to go somewhere and start fresh and build it the way you want it with the type of individuals you want to build it with. That really was a major draw.”

Another draw for Alfred was his faith. The private-school sector provides him an opportunity for making it a bigger part of his program.

“My faith is very important to me and my family, so that’s a unique opportunity where you can openly talk about those things and the impact they have on your lives and the impact they can have on other people’s lives. That’s a huge difference,” he said.

“I’m learning on the run that there are quite a few differences [between private and public schools], but at the end of the day, it’s education and it’s basketball and it’s athletics. But certainly in the private realm, there’s more emphasis on faith and there are directions you can go and things you can talk about that you can’t talk about in public schools, so that’s a unique opportunity. As far as anything else goes, kids are kids and basketball is basketball. I don’t anticipate a lot of difference in that realm.”

Alfred’s hire at Grace Prep came after the recent school year ended, so he hasn’t had a chance to really get a grasp of what sort of team he’s inheriting.

“That’s one thing I have not had the chance to do,” he said. “I’ve met a couple of the kids, but by and large I have not, in large part because of the timing of the hire ... It’s just been a whirlwind, so that’s one thing I’ve not been able to do is get with and spend time with the kids.”

On paper, it would appear Alfred has his work cut out to restore Grace Prep to its glory days, and he’s just fine with that.

“It’s a rebuilding project,” he said. “Ironically, 10 years ago when I went to Mansfield, they had won four games the year before I got there. Rebuilding basketball programs is not anything new to me. I’m looking forward to the challenge, to tell you the truth. It’s the kind of thing that drives me.”

Starting from scratch may make it hard to set expectations for the program, but Alfred is certain of goal No. 1.

“I have one tangible goal and that’s to make us as competitive as possible, as quickly as possible,” he said. “I want these kids to learn to compete and I want us to get back in the direction that it was. I want Grace Prep to be expected to win a state championship. But my immediate goal is to make them as competitive as possible as quickly as possible.”

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