Photo by Christine Troyke
LAWRENCEVILLE -- The decision wasn't easy. Neither was the conversation.
Ten years later, Mandy Quartermaine can laugh about it. Back then, the subject of whether she would play basketball for her father, Mike Allison, at South Gwinnett was a more serious subject.
She always dreamed of being a Comet girls basketball player, at least until Grayson's district was drawn and it took her neighborhood and most of her friends from the South cluster. So when Grayson opened her freshman year, she was there and not at South.
Mandy Allison, a lifelong Comet, wanted to be a Ram.
"Mom and I were kind of, 'How do we break this news to him?'" Quartermaine said. "He took it hard. Of course he wanted me to play for him. But in the long run, he respected my decision and understood that's what I wanted to do. Growing up I always thought I would play for dad.
"When Grayson opened, it was a situation where I wanted to go play with my friends that I'd played with for so long growing up and in middle school. That was tough, but dad understood. It took him awhile, but he understood. He realized in the long run it was better for me."
As it would any father, the decision hurt. Not only did he not get to coach Mandy, he went through her four-year career missing nearly all of her games. He went to as many as he could, but most nights he had conflicting games with South, where he coached from 1986 to 2009.
Ten years later, the father and daughter are making up for lost time.
Both are assistant coaches at the brand-new Archer High School under Ryan Lesniak, spending most afternoons and evenings together at the Tigers' gym. Quartermaine drives over from her job as a teacher at Alford Elementary, then shares the court with her father at long last -- from a different perspective.
"I guess growing up, I've always said hopefully one day I'll get to coach with you," the 23-year-old said of her father, who resigned from South earlier this year. "It's been fun. It's great to come over here in the afternoons every day. Otherwise I didn't get to see him. Our family would go to his games but other than that we didn't get to see him as much. So it's fun coaching over here with him."
"I just really look up to him and I really respect to him as a coach. It's wonderful to work with him. It's fun. Even though I'm not working under him, it's cool to work together and be a part of something together."
For years, they thought that togetherness would be at South. Allison said his daughter's choice was hard to take initially, but it never strained their close relationship.
It still hurt him to miss his daughter's games though.
"We always thought that I'd have an opportunity to coach her," Allison said. "And I did get to coach her in the younger ages a little bit. We always thought we'd have a chance to be together. ... It was tougher on me probably than it was on her. She wanted to be with her friends. I look back at it now and even though I would have loved to have an opportunity to coach her, it was probably a good thing that she got the opportunity over there.
"She still has some records over there. She made her own name without me. If I had been there, she probably would have had to live through, 'Well, you're just getting that because of your dad.' This way she got to do her own thing and be her own person. The only negative was I didn't get to see her as much as I would have liked."
Now he does.
They laugh and joke during practice, sharing a sense of humor Quartermaine said she inherited from her dad. They sit down for post-practice talks. They are side-by-side on the Archer bench at games.
The self-professed "gym rat" kid is living out her childhood ambition of coaching with her father, who is one of the area's most respected high school coaches. She soaks up basketball knowledge from him, while he speaks fondly of the curly-haired young lady he used to cradle in his arms as a baby at South basketball practices.
"She's got such a wonderful personality," Allison said. "She's bubbly. She's excited all the time. You don't see her down very often. Plus she's competitive. She's still competitive."
Quartermaine also said she's seeing a different side of her well-known father, and not just from a coaching standpoint.
"Mom's usually the one I talk to the most," she said. "Dad and I don't talk much on the phone. Anything I want advice on or something I go to her. We talk at least once a day.
"But now dad knows things that mom doesn't necessarily know because I haven't talked to mom yet. So it's nice to be able to talk to him all the time, too."
Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. His column appears on Thursdays.