In the midst of preparing the undefeated Blanche Ely boys’ basketball team for the Dick’s Sporting Goods National High School Tournament, Ely coach Melvin Randall got a telephone call that literally floored him.
At the other end of the line was USA Today sports writer Jim Halley congratulating Randall on being named the All-USA Boys Basketball Coach of the Year by USA Today.
“When Jim Halley called and said I was selected as coach of the year I got numb,” Randall said. “I asked, ‘What is this again?’ I had to lay down and talk to the man. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Given Ely’s historic season, Randall shouldn’t have been taken aback by the national award.
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Randall, a six-time state champion who also won Florida Dairy Farmers Class 7A Coach of the Year, bested an elite coaching field by improbably leading a Tigers team lacking a prerequisite top 100 national player to an undefeated season.
Behind Randall’s signature defensive pressure the Tigers (28-0) turned back all challenges, highlighted by a comeback victory over Class 5A state champion Cardinal Gibbons, and won its third Class 7A state title in the past four seasons.
Ely, ranked No. 4 in the USA Today Super 25, will be the No. 3 seed when it faces Findlay Prep (Nevada) in the Dick’s quarterfinals on Thursday in New York.
Randall, 482-141 in an illustrious 23-year coaching career, used the signature cool persona he displays on the sidelines to steer Ely to the first undefeated season in Broward’s storied public school boys’ basketball history. With the target on its back getting bigger with each victory, Ely survived some close calls, including rallying from a nine-point first-half deficit to defeat Dwyer in the regional semifinals.
“This award is tops because it’s being recognized nationally,” Randall said. “It speaks volumes not just to me but my coaching staff and the kids. I would never claim it’s just me. I feel we have accomplished our mission to win states but to go undefeated is another story.”