Norris scores 200th Georgiana win
Friday night’s convincing 88-35 win over J.F. Shields marked the 16th straight win for the undefeated Georgiana Panthers, but it also served as another milestone—it was the 200th win for Kirk Norris as head coach of the varsity boys basketball team.
Georgiana’s various basketball programs have been synonymous with success in Class 1A and beyond for the past several years. But for Norris, who’s in his ninth year with the school, that wasn’t always the case.
“It’s been the culmination of a lot of hard work and stability with the program,” Norris said. “There were some talented guys when I got here, but they’d changed coaches a lot, and I think stability was a big thing that they didn’t have.
“Of course, all of it goes to the players. They’re the ones that get out there and do it, so it’s as much theirs as it is mine.”
One of the biggest contributions to the team’s continued success—and perhaps the one that Norris is least in control of—is time.
Most of his players—most notably seniors Jacquez Payton and Richard Boggan—have been with him for more than half of his tenure at Georgiana.
Coming up through the junior high program and being members of the B-team (and eventually the varsity squad) from a young age gave them an idea of what to expect at the varsity level.
“I’ve never had to ask these kids to play hard,” Norris said. “That’s mostly what I think you could contribute anyone’s success to—working hard and having stability.”
Norris downplayed his involvement in the program’s success over the last decade, likening the team to a self-perpetuating machine that only occasionally needs a few drops of oil.
“When you have success, it breeds success,” Norris said. “I can look back to my second year and I can see it turning the corner a little bit, and changing some bad habits they had.
“The older guys have done things the right way, and it trickles down to those younger guys and they see what they have to do to be successful.”
The methodology of Norris is paying dividends this season in particular.
The Panthers are 16-0 (4-0 in area play) on the heels of Friday night’s win, but the challenge to remain undefeated pales in comparison to the challenges that the Panthers present to one another.
“People don’t realize sometimes—and this may sound weird—that it’s harder to coach a team that’s very talented and is winning,” Norris said.
“One thing I hit on every day at practice is complacency, and thinking that you’ve done well enough. We have good practices, and these guys compete against each other and make each other better. We’re playing 10 or 11 guys every night out of the 13 we have. It’s a battle not only with the other team, but also among themselves to be the best that they can be. And of course, everyone wants to play, so it’s a battle for playing time, but all for the benefit of the team. They all think they can help in some way, and they can.
“It’s all about getting better, and I think the majority of them that were there last year experienced the letdown when we thought we should’ve won that last game. It’s in the back of their heads that they want to accomplish more, and I think they have very high standards for themselves.”