In recent days, we’ve seen the announcement of Banks County’s coach Mike Cleveland that he was stepping down as coach of the boys basketball program after 9 brilliant seasons.
As that news got to resonate a little bit, we decided to ask some fun questions to coach Cleveland on his coaching career. Here’s what we got:
Q: How did you come to the decision to call it quits and what peace do you have about this decision?
Two parts to this. Number one, I want to do what is best for my family. I want the opportunity to see Carl [Cleveland] play at Young Harris. Not coaching will allow me, my wife Lisa, and daughter Gracie that opportunity. Number two, Ryan Griffin is ready. He has been great for me and this program. Kids love him and respect him. He will be great!
Q: How long have you been contemplating this decision, and how did it effect your emotions during one of Banks’ greatest seasons?
I have contemplated this for a while, knowing that Carl would play in college. I didn’t let it affect this season. I still have the passion and fire to coach. I love the game and everything about it.
Q: How much confidence do you have in Griffin’s abilities to continue what you created?
Ryan Griffin will be great. He has the important characteristics of a good coach: loves kids, works hard, knowledge of the game.
Q: What’s next for you in the sport of basketball? What will you still be doing at Banks County?
I am the system Athletic Director. I will stay connected. Ryan knows that if he needs anything, I will be here to help. The players know that.
Q: What was the reaction of the guys when you told them? And Carl? Did he know throughout the year, or did he find out at the same time?
The guys were quiet. I think our community maybe expected this a little. I had already talked with Carl. Again, this was easier because I feel that I am doing this for my family and Ryan is ready.
Q: Now the fun stuff, What is your favorite moment/game you’ve been a part of at Banks County?
That first Region Championship was special. Stetson Boswell scored a basket late to seal the win. I will always remember the players emotion and excitement of that moment. The gym was unreal. Our community and fans are truly the best.
Q: When you went through a 5-21 season in ’12-13, did you have confidence that over the next 7 years you’d win over 170 games and have this kind of success?
I knew that our kids were working hard. I had a confidence that things were turning around. I have always believed that we could win here.
Q: What will you miss the most about coaching at Banks County?
The relationships with players, coaches, and community. Banks is a great place. I have been blessed to be a part of this program. My family as a whole will miss this basketball. My wife Lisa loves it and has been so supportive. She’s at every game. My daughter also. We have coached as a family.
Q: What are some of the difficult times this program has endured, and how did it make the team stronger (Kahmal Wiley, Alex Lewis, Clayton Martin)?
We have experienced difficult times. Clayton Martin drowned. I had coached him here his senior year. He had signed with Emmanuel and then transferred to Toccoa Falls. He was a great kid. We had that bond. It hurt a lot to get that news. This program really came together during that moment. Alex Lewis was special. Played in the program for 4 years. He was actually coaching at the middle school when he passed. He had such a bright future. Those young kids loved him. Everybody did. I surely did. Kahmal is the strongest person that I know. 99.9% of the population could not survive that accident. He did. He’s making it. He has been in college. He’s working with his dad. He’s living life. He has overcome. All 3 situations has brought this team, school, and community closer. Again, I can’t say enough about this community. It is like no other.
Cleveland polished off his career coaching with his first Elite 8 appearance as part of a 6-year stretch of making the playoffs. That included 4 Sweet 16 runs, 3 Region Championships, 2 Runner-Up Region finishes, and a grand total of 228 wins across two stops. He went 171-84 at Banks County and 57-21 previously at Hart County.