The coaching carousel continues for Jackson County high school boys basketball with the departure of a long-time fixture in Marianna athletics.
Three days after the release of Graceville head coach Matt Anderson, Marianna head coach Travis Blanton announced his resignation on Thursday morning after 14 seasons with the Bulldogs.
Blanton is stepping down to pursue a new career avenue in administration an assistant principal in Jackson County.
“I just feel like this is the best thing for myself, my family and the program,” Blanton said. “I’m leaving on good terms which is a good thing. Not a lot of people get to do that. I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve received over the years from the school board, principal and administration.”
Injuries plagued the Bulldogs last season as Marianna finished 6-19 overall and 2-4 in the district with a first-round loss to Pensacola Catholic last season.
Overall however Blanton’s stint as head coach at Marianna was memorable.
Marianna made the playoffs in eight of the 14 seasons Blanton served as head coach. Blanton brought the Bulldogs to the state final four in back-to-back seasons in 2008-2009 but hopes the next coach can elevate the team to an even higher realm.
“I think our kids deserve someone to come in and bring the program to the next level. It’s my genuine desire to hand this program to someone who can take them to the top,” Blanton said. “I’m just so grateful for all the players and coaches I’ve had the opportunity to build relationships with.”
Blanton added his resignation had nothing to do with star shooting guard Herman Williams transferring to Oldsmar Christian Academy (FL) last week. He said despite the fact Williams is like a son to him, so are the rest of the remaining members of the team.
“They took it pretty well,” Blanton said of the players’ reaction. “They know I care about them and will do everything I can to make sure we bring in the right person to guide them. I told them this morning I’d be very proud to see them win a state title even though it would be without me.”
Blanton says being a head coach was very fulfilling, in large part because of the bond with his players.
“It’s hard [to leave] when you pour your heart into something. Being a coach is so intrinsically rewarding if you develop trust with the kids,” Blanton said. “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Blanton’s contemporaries in Jackson County wished him all the best.
“He is a great friend. He has always been very supportive and always helpful. He has always put forth extra effort for local coaches and for his players,” Malone boys basketball head coach Steven Welch said. “He will be an asset to the county on the administrative level. I’m going to miss him in coaching.”
“I’m happy for Coach Blanton. He wants to try something new and I’m sure he’ll be just as successful as an administrator as he was as a coach. Coach Blanton is one of the good guys in this business,” Cottondale boys basketball head coach Chris Obert said. “As good of a coach as he is, he’s an even better person. He’s someone that I’m proud to say is not only a colleague but more importantly a friend. He’s going to be missed.”
“A great competitor who has done a phenomenal job at Marianna. Always had his teams well prepared and never shied away from top-notch competition,” Former Graceville boys basketball head coach Matt Anderson said. “Congrats to him but he will be missed.”
“I have a lot of respect for Coach Blanton. Even though he coaches at a rival high school and being the head coach there with five billion things going on he would still take the time and talk basketball [with me],” Sneads boys basketball head coach Rob Hubbs said. “I think he ran a great program and did things the right way.”
Prior to Marianna, Blanton coached nine years at Grand Ridge in roles as an assistant and head coach.
Among those Blanton wanted to thank for being a positive influence during his coaching career are: Roger Clay, Elmore Bryant, Bill Gardener, the late Jarvis Lovett, Randy Free, the late Milton Johnson, Gary Davis, Greg Nable, Holland Braxton and John Ellerbee.
Blanton was very proud of the fact he was able to contribute to the success of the aforementioned group whom he deeply admires.
“I’ve been surrounded by great coaches and great mentors,” Blanton said. “God put me in the right place with the right people who helped me a lot.”
Blanton was also the huddle leader for Marianna High School’s chapter of the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes).
“Just the relationships I was blessed to build,” Said Blanton of what he’ll remember the most. “The ability to share my love of God with these children through the game of basketball.”
Blanton admitted this was a choice he grappled with for a few years now, in part due to the work-life balance as a head coach. He’s now looking forward to spending more time with his wife Susan and children Chelsea and Shayne.
“He’s one of the best men I know. Marianna High School couldn’t have had a better human being and role model for the students in his time here as a coach,” Marianna High School offensive line coach and former Bulldogs athletic director John Donaldson said. “He’s a tireless worker and a great man who helped bring back the great tradition of Marianna basketball. So many of his former players come back to see him and it’s because they all love him. His relationship with them was about more than just basketball.”
Blanton also thanked his mother Bonnie Blanton and his fellow church members at Christian Center Church.
The journey and adventure of this chapter of his life may be closing but Blanton will always cherish the fond memories of those who touched him.
“I just appreciate all the support from the Jackson County School Board, the superintendent, school members, the booster club, parents, players, the time and effort of the cheerleaders, the teachers and staff,” Blanton said. “They had to put up with our ups and downs as we tried to put Marianna basketball on the map. So I’m grateful for all of them who contributed in their own unique and important way.”