After 11 years of heading up the Portland West boys’ basketball program, Bill Runyon has announced he is turning the reins over to assistant Alex Meadows.
Runyon will remain at the school as a teacher and will coach track next spring.
“I felt like at this season in my life, it was time for a change,” Runyon said recently. “I love dealing and working with kids, so I’ll still be teaching and coaching track.
Runyon’s son, Chase will be a freshman at the high school next year and their games are played on Monday and Thursday nights, the same as the middle school contests. That scheduling conflict was also a factor in Runyon’s decision to give up coaching basketball.
“I not only want to watch Chase play, but this group of kids that I’ve seen grow up with Chase,” Runyon remarked. “These kids have been at my house and four of these six kids are teacher’s kids. I’ve had connections with the parents. They’ve been together since day camp and are all like my sons.”
Runyon, a Salem Illinois native, started at old Gallatin Middle School for two years and when GMS transitioned into Shafer Middle School, Runyon spent 12 years at the school, including 11 as either boys head coach or girls’ assistant. Runyon was also the track coach for 12 years. After a three-year stint at J.W. Wiseman, Runyon interviewed for the Portland West job and was hired.
The thrill of starting up a new program was exciting, according to Runyon.
“I wasn’t brand new at the game,” Runyon explained. “I didn’t have to build a schedule. It was exciting. I coached with Ronnie Yates at Shafer and his daughter Casey, was hired to coach the girls’ team at Portland West.”
When Runyon was coaching at Gallatin Shafer, their biggest rival was Rucker Stewart across town. Runyon faced the same situation as Portland Middle School was spilt into two schools in 2009.
“I think in the early years, there was a lot of tension,” Runyon pointed out. “It was a natural rivalry with East. Both teams always wanted to win. The guys grow up to be friends, but you always remember who won. It gave the kids more to play for.”
Runyon remembers the first game that Portland West played in. It was a double time loss to Hawkins on a half-court bank shot.
“I told their coach we wouldn’t shake hands,” Runyon remembered. “It wasn’t out of disrespect, we wanted Hawkins to enjoy the win and we went straight to our locker room. Their entire team was in the middle of the court in a dog pile.”
Portland West first season wasn’t that bad, Runyon stated.
“We went to summer camp and won a lot of games,” Runyon noted. “That first year wasn’t that bad. We had Tyler Martin and Austin Griggs as leaders, and they led the group. It was a learning process.”
The last two season, Portland West has won the Class AA county title after having to compete for championships against bigger schools, especially in the Hendersonville area.
“We fought for that and I was proud to be a part of it,” Runyon said. “There had been a lot of talk about making changes and I’m glad to see it. The schedule we play is beneficial to us. In the past, we haven’t had enough horsepower. We have around 500 students and Station Camp has 800. That means 300 more students and more athletes.”
Runyon’s assistant, Alex Meadows, will take over the program this summer.
“Alex had a good vision, and the last three years, has become comfortable coaching,” Runyon explained. “He has plenty of game time experience.”