Home for holiday hoops: Gamble Tournament will be Coleman’s first leading Titans

Published 1:18 pm Saturday, December 26, 2015

For all the success Lincoln High School experienced in boys basketball under James Gamble in 26 years, only one of his pupils became a head coach.

Kenneth Coleman, who graduated from the school in 1978, is now coaching the Port Arthur Memorial Titans, who will host the James Gamble Tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“This is my first opportunity as a head coach,” said Coleman, the former Memorial and North Shore assistant who was hired back by the Port Arthur Independent School District in August. “It’s very special to me because I played for coach Gamble, and I’m the first player under coach Gamble to be a head coach.”

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Gamble, now 80, is looking forward to seeing how Coleman’s Titans will perform more than a week after they opened District 21-6A play with a win at Channelview. But he wonders why there aren’t more of his former players leading programs.

“I have always wanted why other guys — I’ve had a lot of college graduates — never chose to be a coach,” Gamble said. “Kenneth is a student of the game, as a good player himself, and I think he’ll do a wonderful job. He knows how to build a program from the ground up.”

Memorial (5-10) hasn’t played since Dec. 18, but Coleman is using the tournament as a chance for the Titans to further prepare for district play. Against Channelview on Dec. 18, the Titans stuck to the basics, he added, earning a 57-52 win.

“It was a big road win,” he said. “The kids stepped up and did an excellent job.”

Their first opponent will be Houston Kashmere in a game set for 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“Traditionally, they always play hard,” Coleman said of the Rams (5-8 according to MaxPreps.com), which had won three straight before losing to city rival Sharpstown 61-52 on Dec. 19. “They’ll probably be up-tempo, man to man. I think it should be a good matchup.”

The winner will face either Beaumont Kelly or Lake Charles Washington-Marion at 11 a.m. Thursday.

On the other side of the bracket are Beaumont Ozen vs. Hardin-Jefferson and Houston Fallbrook Christian vs. Beaumont West Brook. If Ozen and Memorial hook up, it’ll be the third time this year the two teams meet, with Ozen winning the first two.

“We would love to have another opportunity,” Coleman said. “Ozen has been a big springboard just because of their tradition in the state. Marcus [Saveat] has been doing an extremely good job with them. They’ve been on a roll. They won a big tournament in Cy-Fair and in Houston.”

This is either the 22nd or 23rd year for the James Gamble Tournament, according to the coach himself, which started at Lincoln. The school merged with Thomas Jefferson and Stephen F. Austin high schools to form Memorial in 2002.

The tourney is named after a man who won 641 games from 1963-88, including four state championships during the 1980s. Gamble coached in it himself in 1999 as an interim coach for Lincoln.


About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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