CORDOVA — Leon Douglas has seen it all during his lengthy basketball career.
Through his time as a star player at Alabama to a 17-year professional career and another 20-plus years as a successful coach — Douglas still loves the game.
That’s why the 65-year old with an impeccable resume finds himself as the varsity boys and girls head coach at Cordova High School.
When it came down to making his decision to move to the high school level, there was a reason that Cordova stood apart.
“When I came to visit I was intrigued because this reminds me of where I’m from,” said Douglas, was is from Leighton and graduated from Colbert County High School. “I had offers at other high schools, but when I came out here it had a hometown feeling. The administration here is tremendous. That’s one of the things you look at when you enter a situation. The administration is a catalyst for being successful.”
Douglas’ most recent coaching job was at Miles College (2014-17). He also spent time at Tuskegee (2006-14), winning four conference titles and advancing to the Elite 8, and Stillman (2004-06). He was two-time national coach of the year at Tuskegee.
As a player, Douglas was a four-time All-SEC player at Alabama from 1972-76 under head coach C.M. Newton. He was taken by the Detroit Pistons with the fourth overall pick in the 1976 NBA draft. Douglas played in the NBA until 1982, then spent another decade playing in Italy.
ESPN personality and broadcaster Dick Vitale was Douglas’ head coach on the Pistons.
In Italy, he played under Aca Nikolic, whom Douglas referred to as the John Wooden of European basketball.
“I’ve learned a lot from different coaches that I’ve been able to incorporate into my coaching style,” he said.
Douglas’ first season at Cordova is nearly in the books. Both teams have won five games heading into area tournament-play this week.
Though Cordova won a basketball state championship in 2018, Douglas inherited a boys team that won just two games last season and a girls team that won three games.
Both Blue Devil teams got off to slow starts this season, but improved under Douglas, who took over the basketball program in October. Woodrow Stuart, who was an assistant coach at the University of Alabama when Douglas played in Tuscaloosa, is now Douglas’ assistant at Cordova, along with Valley coach Jamie Walls.
“When I came here and I looked at it, I thought this is interesting,” Douglas said. “There are a lot of good athletes here. We’ve got one on the girls team — BG Braswell — who I think will be an excellent collegiate player. She understands the game and plays hard. We’ve got some young guys as well, Grayson Sims, JP Howell, and (Eriksen) Belzer. We’ve got Dylan Hendrix, a hold over from the championship team, and a 6-foot-5 raw kid, JJ Johnson. The future here is awesome.”
Braswell and all five of the boys players will be back next year.
“The Ws will come. We will turn this thing around. I consider this a young (boys) team. Out of the 11 players, four or five are ninth graders. We’ve also got four seniors who have given us leadership,” Douglas said.
Seniors on this year’s boys team are Isaac Allen, Justin Calloway, Kason Smith and Kage Williams. Seniors on the girls team are McKinsey Boteler, Kalee Ginn, Anna Key, Chelsea Smith and Payton Werling.
“I’ve got a surprise for them next year,” Douglas said of the competition. “After I get my feet on the ground, we will have a good basketball program.”