A lifetime of basketball: Sam Cotton has been mentoring the youth on and off the court for over 40 years

Published 9:00 am Saturday, February 24, 2024

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Basketball courses through the veins of Sam Cotton. You will be hard-pressed to find anybody in Troup County who has positively impacted as many or more young people in Troup County on and off the court. For over 40 years Cotton has been helping change lives in the area.

Little did he know this when he was a captain and star player at Troup High in the late 1970s, where he enjoyed playing basketball with his younger brother, Jeff, before eventually teaming up with his brother at the next level as the duo played together at Southern Union and LaGrange College together.

“Getting a chance to play with your brother is special, but getting the chance to play with your brother in high school and college, how many people can say they’ve done that?” Cotton said. “He was always the leading scorer and I would do whatever the coach needed me to do.”

Always a captain, always a leader, the makings of a successful future coach were evident during his playing days.

For the first decade after graduating college, Cotton kept in touch with the game he loves so much by working with the parks and rec department. Nearly 40 years later, Cotton still coaches with the Troup County Parks and Rec department. In the last decade, he has started up a summer league for young kids to learn the game and stay active.

“We do this each and every summer to try and keep some of these kids off the streets,” he said. “I’ve been doing it since 2015 and with the new renovations it’s even better. I’m blessed to do what I do every Wednesday from 5-7 and those kids eat it up.”

Working with young athletes getting into the game of basketball is a special feeling for Cotton.

“That is what it’s all about,” he said. “I love when I see these kids again when they are all grown up and have families and they will tell me to remember when so and so happened, and how it made them feel.”

Cotton also takes great pride and joy in all he has accomplished at the high school level as well. 

He got his first job as an assistant coach on the LaGrange Academy boys basketball team that finished runner-up in state in 1991-92. Despite a head coaching change in the offseason, Cotton was kept on board and helped the team capture a state title the very next season.

“I thought after the first coach left that it was over and it was a nice ride to get some experience,” Cotton said. “Then, Steven Edelson took over the coaching duties and he got in touch with me and wanted me to come out there and coach.

“We got those guys to buy in early and you can see the results, but now I’m still hungry. It’s been 30 years since I last won one [flashes championship ring from 1992-93 season.”

After his time ended with the Warriors, Cotton has spent the last 30 years seemingly alternating assistant coach roles with LaGrange and Callaway High. When a new coach would come in, they would often want to change assistants and Cotton would occasionally found himself on the outs. It never took him long to find his next coaching stop as his name holds great value in the basketball community of Troup County. 

“Somebody would always hear that I was not coaching anymore at my last stop and would

Just like he was as an athlete, Cotton is a team player as a coach. He knows his role, never looks to undermine the head coach and is grateful for every coaching opportunity that has come his way.

“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been greatly appreciative of having the chance and made sure I never brought an ego or make demands,” he said. 

Despite growing up in the Troup High family, one of his most precious moments of time coaching came with the Grangers. During one of his many coaching stops in the 2000s, Cotton was able to coach one of his daughters on the basketball court. 

“During my time at LaGrange I got the opportunity to coach my daughter on varsity and JV,” he said. “I told her she would not be getting minutes just because I was the head JV coach. She had to show me that she could play. 

Now, Cotton has been calling the bench for the Callaway girls basketball home for over 10 years. It is another natural fit as he compliments head coach Deyano Martin.

“Sam Cotton has been there with me since I’ve been here. Anything I asked him to do, he’d do it,” Martin told the LaGrange Daily News back in 2022. “He was also one of those who mentored me and is somebody I can vent to. I can call him anytime, and he’ll be there for me.”

The Cavaliers wrapped another season this past week with a loss in the opening round of the state playoffs, but Cotton is far from impacting lives this year. He will be hosting the youth basketball league this summer and will of course be back on the Callaway sideline in the fall.