Building a Basketball Program with Coach Charlie Anderson
By Knox Hargis
MTN Sports Reporter
Legendary Nashville basketball coach Charlie Anderson has built basketball programs from the ground up at nearly every job he has held.
Starting at Central High School as a baseball coach in 1959, Anderson was called on to lead the basketball program just a few months before the season began. It was only two years later when the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame coach was applying for bigger jobs.
One of Anderson’s former players, Ryan Young, thinks he may know why.
“Coach Anderson has always been one of the best coaches at player development,” said Young. “He stressed the importance of fundamentals, which always made his teams really good.”
Anderson was hired at Stratford High School in 1961, the first year the school was open. He opened up about the difficulty involved in starting a program.
“The first year I was there the only players we had were ninth graders since the school had just opened,” said Anderson. “It was a real tough challenge, but it was definitely a fun one at that.”
Anderson led Stratford to four straight state tournament appearances from 1966-1969. At the time, each high school was in the same division which made this even more impressive. Anderson absolutely will not take the credit, however.
“I can only do so much as far as telling the kids what position to be in,” said Anderson. “They have to step up and make plays when it is all said and done, and I had some great players during my coaching years.”
Stratford made it to one state title and unfortunately lost its best player to injury. Anderson is proud of that team still as they only lost by four points.
After 14 years at Stratford, Anderson was hired by Bellevue High School.
Former player Jacob Burns completely understands the respect Coach Anderson commands.
“Playing for him was a really cool experience because of all the success he has had over the years,” said Burns. “He always demands your absolute best effort and it was tough at the time, but I am really happy I had the opportunity to play for him."
Anderson coached at Bellevue for five years, leading the school to four state tournament appearances in that time. The school was forced to close after his fifth year there.
“It was really an unfortunate situation. There is nothing much anyone could have done because it was the law makers decision,” said Anderson. “I really loved coaching those boys at Bellevue, but it is what it is.”
Over the next couple of years, Anderson was offered the Vanderbilt Women’s head coaching job, and a Vanderbilt Men’s assistant coaching position. He turned down both of them.
“When I was offered the women’s job, I was just one year away from retirement in Metro, so I did not want to give that up,” said Anderson. “When I was offered the men’s job, I had to turn it down because my son was just starting his freshman year and I did not want to travel too much.”
Anderson spent one year as the Hillsboro High School girls coach to become eligible for retirement. He also turned that program around by taking a team that had won four games the previous year to the state tournament.
He then was hired by Aquinas College, a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association at the time. Anderson coached for over 20 years at Aquinas and won a National Championship in 1991. He also had several other top ranked teams for the school.
Aquinas shut down the basketball program in 2001 due to budget cuts.
“That school’s athletic department was really important to athletes in Nashville and we would have won a few more championships if the program was kept afloat I think,” said Anderson.
Anderson took a year off to regroup before receiving a call from Nashville Christian School to come evaluate its program. Anderson was honest with school officials as he told them he felt the talent there was being under used. One day later, Nashville Christian offered Anderson the head coaching job.
He coached at NCS for 12 years before being let go by the school.
“It was really a shame the way things ended there,” said Anderson. “I wanted to stay a couple more years and I think we were on the verge of something special, that’s just not how it ended up working out.”
At age 85, Anderson’s coaching days are behind him, but he still cherishes his memories over the years. He is a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, the TSSAA Hall of Fame, the National Junior College Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, along with many more achievements.
“I will never forget the feeling of winning district my senior year, and Anderson was a big reason for that,” said Young. “Guys just wanted to play for him throughout his career because they knew they would become better basketball players."
With 1,080 total victories, Anderson is one of the most successful coaches in Tennessee basketball history. He has impacted countless lives and his imprint on the game of basketball will last forever.