Longtime Georgetown High School boys basketball Coach Alvin “Stitch” Walker resigned his position on Monday.
GHS Principal Craig Evans named Michael Ford Jr., the Bulldogs junior varsity coach, as the interim varsity coach.
Walker, who will continue to be an assistant principal at the school, said he is “at peace” with his decision.
“It’s more than just coaching on the day of (the game) and I don’t think I can give that 100 percent like I used to,” Walker said. “I love coaching but I love students, and I think that it’s given me an opportunity to be here and touch so many other students’ lives other than through basketball.”
He still has a love for the game, he said, but “having a love for it is different than me being able to give to it what it deserves.”
Evans said Walker was more than just a coach. He called him a counselor, a parent and a mentor.
“When people think of Georgetown High basketball, they think of Stitch Walker (but) his influence extends well beyond the playing court,” Evans said. “His enthusiasm and his energy levels have always been over the top. He is certainly going to be missed on the court. Luckily we’ll still have him in the school.”
Carvers Bay High School boys basketball Coach Jeff Mezzatesta called Walker an ambassador for the game in Georgetown County and “a true testament of what a coach should be.”
“They don’t come much better than Alvin Walker. He’s just a phenomenal human being,” Mezzatesta said. “It’s a huge blow to basketball in our county. Nobody can fill that void.”
Walker has been pondering his decision for several months and said he had been “fighting” with his wife, Teresa, and longtime Assistant Coach Richard Butts about stepping down. Butts told Walker a long time ago he would leave when Walker did, and he has also resigned.
“I didn’t want to be selfish because other people are involved,” he added. “(Butts) is going to walk away with me. We leave as a team.”
Andrews High School boys basketball Coach Kevin Branham, who coached the girls teams as Georgetown at the beginning of his career, said he hated to see Walker go. He’ll miss his enthusiasm and passion.
“I think Stitch did a fantastic job of coaching and being a positive influence on those kids at Georgetown,” Branham said. “He is an excellent person and a good role model for young man. He set forth what you need to be once you graduate from high school and move on.”
Walker considers Butts and Pastor Robbie Davis to be his “inner circle” and said every coach should have men like them by their side.
“Have close people, your people, in an inner circle of people who have your best interests in hand,” he said. “I was young when I started, but I always had good people around me, people who had my back. It’s always good when you know that you’ve got somebody who’s got your back that doesn’t want your job.”
Walker taught at Plantersville Elementary School for 21 years, and coached at Choppee High and Georgetown Middle schools, before coming to Georgetown High nine years ago.
“I thought I made the right decision coming here,” he said.
He taught drivers education for three years before becoming an assistant principal. He was also athletic director for several years.
Walker was still teaching at Plantersville when he became Georgetown High boys basketball coach before the 2000-01 season. He was recommended for the job to Principal Richard Summey by Athletic Director Debby Squires.
Walker joked that after he became successful, Summey always took credit for hiring him.
Walker led the Bulldogs to one Lower State title game, where Georgetown lost to Myrtle Beach, and four straight Lower State semi-final games. He said he has no idea how many games he’s won and lost.
“I’ve never been in it for that,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s even cool. But I’m different.”
Walker said coaching has become a year-round job because the S.C. High School League rules have changed and teams can have practices and organized activities during the off-season.
He said student-athletes should play more than one sport and allowing more off-season activities sometimes keeps kids from doing that.
Walker said he appreciated the support of Evans, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Randy Dozier, GHS Assistant Principal Alicia Johnson and former GHS Assistant Principal Seth Hillman.
Walker said he’s not sure what it’s going to be like to sit in the stands and watch the Bulldogs play. He is famous for pacing the sidelines during games, or even getting down on his hands and knees on, or near, the court to follow the action.
“I hope I can sit still in a seat,” he said.
Mezzatesta said what he will miss most about coaching against Walker is looking over at the Georgetown bench and seeing Walker with a wry smile on his face.
“It made me think, what am I doing wrong that he knows that he’s going to get me on,” Mezzatesta said.
When Branham moved on to Andrews and took over the boys team, it took him several games to get his first victory over Georgetown.
“I’ll miss coaching against him,” Branham said. “You felt like if you won, if you got a victory over him, you had worked that night.”
Despite being county rivals, Branham said Walker was always a phone call away, willing to share scouting reports, advice, or just chat.
Walker said he will help out Ford during the transition and definitely assist with the annual Bulldog Shootout in November.
Walker has watched Ford grow up. Ford was a member of an 11- and 12-year-old recreation league team that played for a state championship, and the Georgetown High team that played for the Lower State title.
“He’s got nothing but love for Georgetown High School and the Georgetown High School basketball program,” Walker said. “I’m going to be in his corner … doing whatever (I) need to do to see that he has the resources to be successful.”
Walker is the third high-profile Georgetown High varsity coach to step down since March. Football Coach Bradley Adams and baseball Coach Ben Waddle also resigned and left the school district.