Amber Gilliam was officially introduced as the new head coach of the Franklin County High School girls basketball program in a press conference held Wednesday at the high school.
FCHS Athletic Director Don Rhoton started the press conference by introducing Gilliam, a 2002 FCHS graduate.
Rhoton said that Gilliam's passion for basketball and the local area made her an ideal candidate for the position.
“She is passionate about Franklin County athletics,” Rhoton said. “That means a lot to me to bring in people who are local to run our programs. We’re excited that we have her.”
Rhoton then gave the floor to Gilliam who began by stating her excitement about coming into the program.
“They’ve got a great group of girls here. This is a great place to start,” Gilliam said. “I think the Franklin County basketball system as a whole is a really good place for all of us. It’s not just about the team that’s here at the high school, but about cultivating everything that builds it.”
Gilliam said that the chance to coach at the school she graduated from and played for was a rare opportunity that she had been striving for.
“I’ve actually been watching this job since I graduated from high school. I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Gilliam said. “It’s a really unique situation, and a lot of good memories come flooding back when you go into that locker room and see the pictures of the girls that you played with.”
Gilliam said that she is a player-oriented coach who will be spending the time leading up to her first season getting to know her players to figure out what they need to do to find success on and off the court.
“I’ve got to figure out a way to put all those pieces together,” Gilliam said. “I have to figure out who I am coaching first. This is not just about the sport that’s being played in the gym. It’s about building the relationships and teaching them how to be ambassadors of our school and our community.”
Gilliam talked about how she got her start in coaching when Al Tipps offered her an assistant coaching position for his AAU team during her senior year of high school. Gilliam had played for Tipps at Broadview Elementary.
The experience of coaching with Tipps convinced Gilliam to continue her coaching career after she finished college.
“I would not be sitting where I am as a coach if I hadn’t had the seed planted by coach Tipps many years ago,” Gilliam said.
She later served as an assistant girls basketball coach at the University of the South from 2007-2016 and head softball coach at the same college from 2007-2013.
Rhoton and Gilliam expressed interest in reviving the countywide AAU program to assist in developing players from all grades outside the school season.
“I remember coming up in it and thinking that if I hadn’t played AAU in the spring and summer, I never would have been prepared to play in the regular season,” Gilliam said. “The youth in our community deserve the opportunity to continue playing outside of their season.”
Gilliam added that rebuilding the local AAU program will allow her to interact with and coach younger players in the offseason and will expose those players to a wider variety of coaches and styles to make them better overall.
“We have so many kids that could really bring more if we gave them the opportunity to play,” Gilliam said.
The Rebelettes will begin their first season with Gilliam as the head coach in November.