0

Getting to know ... Ryan Hodges

Ryan Hodges, 41, is the new boys head basketball coach at Wesleyan. The father of two boys, Hodges comes to the Norcross school from Marist where he was an assistant basketball coach for the past five years. He also is a former Wesleyan assistant coach. In this installment of "Getting to Know..." staff writer Ben Beitzel talks with Hodges about being a young head coach at Salem High School, leaving and returning to teaching and coaching golf and T-ball.

BB: Let's start with what it's like coming back to Wesleyan to take over the boys basketball program.

RH: It's been great. Wesleyan has been wonderful, it's been really supportive. It's just a great place to work. It's been great getting to know the kids this summer, getting to put my system in and my expectations and what I want my program to look like.

BB: Why make the move from public to private school, starting at Salem and then going to Marist?

RH: The opportunity at Marist and the opportunity here at Wesleyan, I don't think those opportunities come around that often. They both were presented to me and I just felt like the combination of the academic excellence, athletic excellence, support, community, family, those ideas were really important to me. I like this type of environment.

BB: You left teaching for two years, why?

RH: I had sales-management opportunity with a guy that I used to coach with. Financially it was good, but I was in it for two years and just realized I wanted to be around a school, I want to help kids fulfill their dreams. It was a lot more enjoyable being around and teaching kids in high school than being in the business world.

BB: And now you'll never wonder, 'What if..."

RH: Exactly. It's not that it was awful, but there was something more out there. If Friday night and Sunday night are now different, you've got it made. You've got a good job.

BB: You played basketball at Shorter College (now University). Did you go there intending on coaching or just using basketball as a means to an education?

RH: I wanted to be a coach. I knew in the eighth grade that I wanted to eventually coach high school basketball. I knew at a young age. I knew when I was playing that I wanted to be a high school coach.

BB: Did you enjoy playing basketball at Shorter?

RH: I sure did. I liked the small-school environment. It's a school now that they have 2,500 to 3,000. When I was there it as 1,500 or so, my high school (Heritage) was as big as it. I met my wife there. I have great friends from there. I guess that kind of introduced me to the private schools. It was a private college and a Christian-based college.

BB: And you coaching trickles down I know about your T-ball coaching (from Wesleyan girls head coach Jan Azar) and you coach golf.

RH: (laughs) Along with golf, that is my other big hobby. I enjoy taking my kids to the baseball field and coaching them and coaching their friends. I am very involved in their lives. As my dad was. My dad coached and taught in high school and he did the same thing with us, he was very involved with, I guess, our maturation and that was fun. Those are priceless times.

BB: Golf and T-ball is probably much less intense than a Friday night basketball game.

RH: (laughs) Right. It's much less. That's right.

BB: Do you play golf or just coach from the cart?

RH: No, I play. I picked it up after college, so I've been playing since I was 25. I've gotten to play some pretty good places. (I played) Peachtree Golf Club, Torrey Pines out in (California). Torrey, I've been out to Torrey a few times to play. I still haven't gotten the invite to Augusta (laughs)

BB: There's got to be someone here that can get you on.

RH: (laughs)

BB: Are you a low handicap? I'm not.

RH: You know what, I'm about a 10. I don't get to play as much as I would like to play because the kids are at the age where, do I want to, on a Saturday morning, invest time in whatever sport they are doing and being out there with them and coaching them and getting to know their friends? Or do I want to go be on the golf course for five hours on a Saturday morning? I'm more of a family guy.BB: They'll be gone soon enough even at 10 and 7.

RH: Exactly.

BB: Since you are back here after being an assistant was there something that drew you here?

RH: I was excited to come back. I loved my time at Marist, but getting to know the people and the leadership here the year that I was here, it's a wonderful place with great leadership. It's some place that, this was the job that I would have left Marist for. It's a great fit. My kids will end up coming here and they'll be at the same school that I am teaching at, coaching at.

BB: It wasn't any head job, it was this head coaching job.

RH: I wasn't going to leave for any coaching position. It had to be the right situation.

BB: What did you learn that first stint as a head coach at Salem?

RH: I was a head coach pretty young. Coach (Ron) Bell at Marist, he was kind of a mentor to me when I was a young head coach. And when I had the opportunity to go there and coach with him was amazing. Then, they year I spent with (former Wesleyan head coach) Skip (Matherly), Skip was an assistant under coach Bell so that was kind of our connection. And learning different styles from coach Matherly, who was very successful while he was here, and drawing from those styles and then going back to coach (Greg) McClaire (at Marist) that's three coaches that's given me, I guess, a very well-rounded perspective.

BB: As a basketball coach, I assume you're a fan, who do you enjoy or cheer for?

RH: I don't really watch the NBA. I am a big fan of ACC basketball. I like ACC basketball.

BB: Just ACC, not Big East or somewhere else?

RH: I guess growing up in the South, the SEC is known for football and the ACC is known for basketball, or has been historically. Tobacco Road, the Duke-North Carolina rivalry. I had some good friends that played at Georgia Tech back in the late '90s and I used to go to the ACC Tournament every year. I just think there is a lot of rich tradition. With Syracuse coming in next year and with Pitt and Notre Dame coming in, it's going to be the best teams on the east coast playing in the ACC. I enjoy watching that brand of basketball.

BB: But no team?

RH: Growing up, I was a huge Tech fan. My dad is a life-long Tech guy, my brother went to Tech, graduated from there. I was a Tech guy growing up. It was fun watching Mark Price and Bobby Cremins and that type of Golden Years at Georgia Tech.