If you’ve had the opportunity to chat with Rob Gordon or simply to see the passion with which he ran and coached the boys basketball program at Ocoee High School, you’d know it would take a heck of an offer to lure the veteran coach away from the Knights.
Gordon took the program in Ocoee from a 6-20 record in his first year on campus to a 21-5 mark this past season.
Last week, though, Gordon got that offer he couldn’t refuse — a chance to head the program at Evans High School.
As a kid, Gordon spent countless hours in the old gym at Evans’ Pine Hills campus, where his father, Bob Gordon, was an assistant coach for the Trojans’ boys basketball program for 12 years and the head coach for Evans’ girls program for 13 years.
Later, Gordon himself played for the Trojans from his freshman year to his junior year before transferring to Lake Highland Prep for his senior season.
“Ultimately, the opportunity to go back home — where I went to school and I grew up watching my dad coach, where I’ve watched many a player and am now able to follow in my dad’s footsteps … it was just too good to pass up for me,” Gordon said.
I’m sad to see Gordon go (though, to be fair, he’s not going far) but excited for him all the same.
You can’t fault anyone for wanting to return home or take his or her dream job, especially after the contributions he made to the program at Ocoee. The Knights improved each season under Gordon, going 6-20, 14-13, 14-12 and 21-5, respectively. Moreover, he developed the best player in the program’s history, outgoing senior guard Grant Riller (a signee to College of Charleston who simply torched opponents this past season) and fellow senior standout Vaugh McCall, who will play collegiately at Flagler College.
He’s not leaving the cupboard bare, either. Beyond the talents of Riller and McCall, Ocoee was bolstered by strong play from its underclassmen who will make the job opening for the Knights an attractive one, to be sure.
It says even more about Gordon that, despite the Evans offer being his dream job, the decision still wasn’t easy.
“(The decision) wasn’t a slam dunk at all,” Gordon said. “The reason it wasn’t is that I have such a strong appreciation for what the administration and athletic department at Ocoee allowed me to do, in terms of supporting me and our program. It was a complete rebuilding job and they let me do my job and do what was necessary to change the culture — not just of Ocoee basketball, but in trying to change the overall culture of the athletic department.”
As I said earlier, it’s not as though Gordon is going far. Supporters of the Knights will have an opportunity to see the outgoing coach when Ocoee and Evans square off in Metro Conference play, as will supporters of Olympia and Dr. Phillips, and West Orange will see the Trojans twice a year in district competition.
I’ve always respected and appreciated the right for coaches to move on and take new challenges, and I’m certainly excited to observe how Gordon handles his next post. As opposed to a rebuilding job at Ocoee, the Evans job is ready-made with high expectations and attention. The community in Pine Hills loves its basketball team and is proud of its tradition.
Fortunately, their new head coach is as much a student of Evans basketball history as any.