Winder-Barrow head coach Kimberly Garren is entering her sixth season at the helm of Lady Bulldoggs basketball, but she has some help running the program.
Her father, Ron Garren, is right behind her as an assistant. He was a head coach for 40 years before retiring in 2019.
Ron coached the boys’ team at Winder-Barrow for 19 total years. His first tenure spanned from 1983 to 1996, and his second went from 2012-2019.
Before Ron’s retirement, he and Kimberly were the first father-daughter head coaching duo in the Georgia High School Association’s (GHSA) history.
Last season, Kimberly asked her father to help her out with coaching. Though, Ron had never coached girls before.
“When Kimberly asked me to help her, I really didn’t want to do it,” Ron said. “I didn’t think that I would enjoy coaching girls' basketball.”
Even so, Ron found a bright spot in the transition and has enjoyed it so far.
“What’s so refreshing to me is that the girls’ game is played the way that the boys played back in the 8-s and the 90s,” Ron said. “A lot of set plays, half-court oriented.”
“The boys’ game has just transformed into (quickly going) up and down the floor. They just spread the floor, not a lot of basic fundamentals are played in the boys’ game.”
When Ron was a coach, he was much more offensive-minded, while Kimberly is more focused on the defense.
Typically, the head coach hovers over the offense more during practice, while the assistants cover the defense. Still, Ron and Kimberly naturally found their way back to their favorite aspect of the game while coaching the Lady Bulldoggs.
In practice, they split the girls into two groups, and Kimberly stays on one end of the court coaching defense, while Ron is on the other end coaching offense. When they’re done with the first group, they’ll just switch groups instead of switching away from their basketball focus.
It even becomes a playful competition for them at times.
In a practice prior to the start of the season, Kimberly’s defensive scheme was able to stifle Ron’s offensive adjustments. Then, they laughed about it and kept it going – business as usual from there.
“It’s out of fun, and it helps with what (the girls) do in the game,” Kimberly said. “It’s kinda nice to have that element built into the game.”
More than anything, though, it’s a collaboration between the two and the rest of the Lady Bulldoggs’ coaching staff. Kimberly and Ron often discuss the different dynamics of the game. They bring their varying levels of basketball experience into the mix to put together a recipe for success.
“It’s kinda fun to bounce (basketball concepts and ideas) off of her,” Ron said.
The coaching staff, as a whole, has over 60 years of cumulative head coaching experience, 40 of those coming from Ron.
Ron always heavily included his assistants in his game-planning, which is why 19 of his former assistants all became head coaches at some point in their respective careers.
Kimberly has picked up that same perspective. She allows Ron to go into the locker room first after halftime, while she goes into the office with the other assistants to discuss each game’s developments – a recipe that allows each coach to have an influence on how the game progresses.
That’s not the only thing she picked up from her dad. Kimberly grew up watching Ron coach, never missing a game, even on nights she had her own games she played in.
One of the primary things she inherited from him was the fiery spirit he coached with.
“Our personalities are a lot alike anyways; I’m more like him than I am my mom,” Kimberly said. “The running up and down the sidelines, my energy – all of that stuff comes to that (which I inherited from him).”
Ron’s focus on players knowing their roles on the team also trickled down into Kimberly’s coaching style.
“That's one thing I've learned from him – those roles are important, and they have to know (the roles) or they can't do them,” Kimberly said. “If you don't like your role, then work to get another one.”
“My definition of a team is everybody accepting their role,” Ron added. “I've always defined their role, and I still do that with the girls now.”
More than anything else though, Winder-Barrow High School feels like a home for both Ron and Kimberly. In addition to Ron’s 19 years as head coach, Kimberly also played at Winder-Barrow in high school.
This opened the door for her to be more involved than she may have been coaching at another school.
“Growing up the way that I did, it really truly felt like home here to me,” Kimberly said. “This is where I was all the time. I was probably here more than at our house. I remember running the halls in my socks during teacher planning days or days that he would have practice.”
That familiarity breeds a higher level of respect for Kimberly from the Lady Bulldoggs.
“You get a different level of respect from the kids initially,” Kimberly said. “They know that you've not only been in the trenches they've been in, but you've been in the trenches in the same building in the same community that they've been in.”
“We talk about bleeding red and black. We talked about that Double G and what it means and that extra effort and all of that stuff. I'm ingrained in that. That's what I grew up with.”
What’s more, she’ll have Ron by her side, another Bulldogg ingrained in the Winder-Barrow culture.
Ron may have put away his head coaching hat, but he doesn’t plan on stepping away from the game completely anytime soon. For the near future, he will have his daughter’s back on the sidelines.
“Basically as long as she needs me to do it,” Ron said when asked how long he’ll be one of Kimberly’s assistants.