GALLATIN – Gallatin Green Wave boys’ basketball coach Bobby Luna has constantly rewritten the record books during his 29-year coaching career.
On Tuesday, Nov. 20, he etched his name amongst the top coaches in his profession earning career win number 500 when his Green Wave defeated White House High School by 28 points on his home floor at Gallatin High School.
Just as when he set the record for most wins at Gallatin High School last season, Luna was quick to give praise and credit to those around him for the successful job he has done.
“I’m blessed in so many ways,” he told the Gallatin News. “There are so many aspects that go into coaching. First you must be at a good school where you have good talent and I’ve had that here at Gallatin. You’ve got to have a family that is supportive and allows you to do it. There are so many little things that go into being able to do this for a long time with health and administration being two more key components. There are so many little things that could have gone wrong along the way that could have derailed the type of longevity I’ve been blessed to have.”
A great staff
Luna knows the importance of a good coaching staff and added that he has been blessed with two of the finest coaches the last 12 seasons.
“I tell them [Chris Goode/Jo Jo Smith] good head coaches don’t want just yes men,” Luna said. “No one can make improvements that way. The same is true in any profession. You’ve got to be willing to take suggestions from those around you because they see things from a different angle. We all see things similarly, but they see it from a different look and they have a different opinion of the way we evaluate. In 29 years of coaching I have been blessed by having loyal assistant coaches. I know it sounds like a cliché, but I’ve been very fortunate and blessed in many ways to have great help around me.”
A supportive community
Before Gallatin there was Warren County High School, where Luna spent five seasons as boys head coach and amassed 90 wins during his tenure. If it wasn’t for coach Dwight Waller resigning on the third day of school, Luna may have never ended up being a legend who donned the green and yellow.
“I left what I consider to be my hometown 24 years ago because we knew of the success of the athletic programs here and we knew we felt like we had a chance to be a part of that,” Luna said. “Once we got here, we started raising our family here [three daughters: Katie, Jenna, Shelby]. It has been a community-oriented school and when you have kids you start to understand the importance of having a village to help raise them. Whether we needed help picking our kids up from school because we have basketball or my wife has dance, this community has shown us so much support in multiple ways; not just supporting the basketball program but supporting us personally throughout the years if we needed anything. We are a part of the Gallatin community and our family is blessed and very fortunate to be here.”
Luna continued talking about the tremendous amount of support he has received from the Gallatin community saying Green Wave Nation is second to none.
“We are still one of the few communities around that still has our games broadcasted on the radio,” he said with a smile. “The Gallatin News has been tremendous in following our team and I know there are a lot of programs that don’t get that. It’s a blessing to be a part of. We love it for our players. I think a lot of times when we do have players go on to play at the smaller level of college they are surprised by the lack of support they have whether that is the locker room, the weight room, or just people attending games. They don’t get while they are here but sometimes when they go away they realize how nice our facilities are, how much the community loves them and they have better support here at Gallatin than they do at certain schools.”
Even though Luna has joined a prestigious list of coaches to reach 500 wins, he says he is always still learning from his players, his coaches and those that influenced him while he was in school.
“The most important thing I’ve learned is there is not a perfect way to be a basketball coach,” he said. “This is not a science. If it was we’d own the book and all coach the same way. There is an art to this. I’ve tried to do it with an open mind and open ears and listen to the people around me. We’ve tried and failed many times but failure hasn’t made us scared to go back and make adjustments to try something different.
“Now, there are staples to what we do,” Luna continued. “The thing I’ve been the most consistent with is what I learned during my time at Austin Peay State University and I have to give a lot of the credit to coach Lake Kelly. The one constant through 29 years is our defensive philosophy. We’ve tweaked it, we’ve adjusted based on the players we had but the consistency of being a man-to-man half court defensive team has been our staple for 29 years.”
In the two years I’ve gotten to know coach Luna I’ve never once sensed an urge to push his own agenda, instead it has always been team first and that is something his players have bought into.
“At the end of the day, our kids play for the name on the front of their jersey,” he said. “We don’t have names on the back because at the end of the day you’re representing your school and your community first.”
No end in sight
After 29 years, Luna hasn’t slowed down or missed a beat on the sideline and says he has no plans of doing anything other than coaching basketball for the foreseeable future.
“Our goal every year is to be the best basketball team we can be,” he said. “Some years it means we are competing for a district championship and some years it means we are playing better basketball at the end of the year than the beginning. We’d love to get back to the level of being in the state tournament where we were three out of four years (1999-00, 2001-02, 2002-03). Hopefully, we can knock on that door sometime soon.
“I think realistically we came into every year and we ask where we are and if we do that and have good young men in our program that have bought in and understand there is more to this than individual accolades. How do I improve my future? Can I be a productive citizen when I leave here and do I understand what hard work is and what the rewards of hard work are? Then we have done our jobs as coaches and I’ll be able to go home and sleep at night.
“When I start thinking about not coaching it gets really hard for me. I don’t know what I’ll do when I’m done coaching. I don’t have a plan outside of basketball. I’m 54 years old so I don’t think I’ll do it for 20 more years, but at the same time I haven’t put a timetable on how long I want to coach for. I just hope I’m continued to be blessed with my health and my family members continue to be healthy. I hope nothing changes that would force a different decision but right now everything continues to go the way it is going I can’t put a timetable on it.”
A new challenge
Luna may be in his 29th year coaching and considered an old head by some in the coaching profession, but he says a team like this year’s squad really rejuvenates him and gets him excited to come to work every day.
“With last year’s team, we knew exactly what we had going into the season, but with this year’s bunch we had no idea what we had,” he said. “I’ve got just one senior and 11 sophomores and one freshman so we are really excited about what this team is going to be. I will say that I have been pleasantly surprised this year. I told the coaches at the end of last year that if there was anything we wanted to try this might be the team to do that. We can’t be afraid to try something and have it fail in two weeks and then we have to start over because we are not starting over for the next eight weeks, we are starting over for the next three to four years because so many of these young guys will be back.
“We are trying to find a happy medium to win now and build for the future. When I came to Gallatin 24 years ago, I told the first group of seniors they were step one and we are going to be as good as we can be right now, but we are not going to sacrifice the future because the team is so young. This is certainly not step one but at the same time it is a catch 22 between what we can do to be successful now, but what can we do to continue to build for the future. This year has been a lot of fun I can tell you that.”
Along with 500 career wins, Luna now sits at 411 victories at Gallatin High School. He picked up career win No. 501 on Monday, November 26, 2018 against Clarksville.