Lenoir City hires Wright coach for girls' basketball

By Jesse Smithey knoxnews.com

Conversations between Todd Wright and area high school basketball coaches are about to change in a drastic way.

More talking shop.

Less talking recruiting.

Citing a desire to spend less time on the road and more time with his family, Wright resigned as Maryville College women’s basketball coach Tuesday to take over the Lenoir City girls’ basketball team.

Wright was at Maryville College for two seasons (41-15), leading the Scots to two regular-season and tournament titles in the Great South Conference. Maryville was 22-6 this season and advanced to the NCAA Division III tournament. He coached at Roane State for three seasons, posting a 56-36 record from 2005-08.

Maryville College named Darrin Travillian as interim coach.

Wright returns to the high school ranks, where he made a name for himself at Oliver Springs. He coached the Lady Bobcats for six seasons (1999-2005), making two trips to the Class AA state tournament and winning 150 games against 49 losses.

“I’m not ruling out that I would never get back in the college game, because I liked it and I had a good time doing it,” said Wright. “But at this time in my life, I feel it’s a good opportunity to settle things down and be able to put my kids back as a priority.”

Wright has a 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. For the past five seasons, he’s spent hours recruiting and traveling. He frequented countless high school gyms, quizzing coaches with the question: “What can I do to get your player to play for me?” That’s no longer the case. He’ll play the hand he’s dealt.

“Now the conversations will be more about the weather and golf,” quipped Wright. “No one’s going to want to give any secrets to each other. But, coaching is a fraternity. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. A lot of these women and men I’ll be coaching against, I have so much respect for and just enjoy their friendship and enjoy being a part of that fraternity with them. I’m looking forward to it.”

Wright replaces Joe Lee, who coached Lenoir City for 37 years, 29 as head coach. Lee won three district titles, four region titles and made a state tournament appearance.

Lenoir City, however, has struggled adjusting to Class AAA. It hasn’t appeared in a region tournament since 2004, its penultimate season in Class AA.

As a member of District 4-AAA, Lenoir City’s gauntlet includes Farragut, Maryville, West, Heritage, Bearden, Catholic and William Blount. But that only lured Wright.

“(Lenoir City) has some good players there,” Wright said. “There’s no doubt. But it’s definitely going to be a challenge. I’m very familiar with that district and with the coaches in that district and how tough it’s going to be.

“I think that’s the part of the reason why I went. It’s an opportunity to compete in my opinion — and I’ve been on the outside looking in for a while now — from top to bottom the top girls’ basketball district in East Tennessee. In all sports, it’s a really competitive district. That was definitely part of the appeal.”