Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Column: Lennard coach Danny Gaddis the complete package

Coach Danny Gaddis — suspenders, as usual, down — reacts during a region final win that puts Lennard in its first state semi.


Coach Danny Gaddis — suspenders, as usual, down — reacts during a region final win that puts Lennard in its first state semi.

The suspenders are the first thing you notice about Lennard High School boys basketball coach Danny Gaddis.

Specked with little Longhorns, they frame his burnt orange tie.

"I thought it'd be a good touch," he said.

By the second quarter of games, Gaddis' suspenders hang around his waist. He fiddles with his tie, adjusts his glasses, yells instructions.

He looks like a basketball coach, which is the point.

Dress the part, his dad used to tell him. No matter what you do, look like you belong doing it.

"He's right. I did tell him that," said Anthony Gaddis Sr., a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who served 30 years. "He remembers that, huh?"

Danny Gaddis, 31, remembers a lot. It's a big part of the reason he has guided Lennard to today's Class 6A state semifinals in what will be the biggest athletic event in the Longhorns' brief history.

• • •

An Army brat born at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, Gaddis grew up with basketball.

When he wasn't out shooting baskets, he ritually spent his weekends on the couch watching college basketball with his mother (Veronica), dad and brothers (Tony Jr. and Andre).

Nolan Richardson's 40 minutes of hell.

Rick Pitino's high-pressure attack.

John Thompson's intimidating defense.

His father would help explain what was happening and always throw in a nugget or two about John Wooden and how he might have done it.

At the time, Gaddis planned to play in the NBA, so his father never imagined he would grow up to be a basketball coach.

But watching his team, watching the way it plays, watching the way his son coaches, it all looks a little familiar.

"Some of that stuff rubbed off on him," Anthony Gaddis Sr. said. "He's kind of a kid that takes things and puts his own twist on it. But I see now that was the beginning of some of his development as a coach."

• • •

Lennard is a small basketball team. Its tallest player is 6 feet 3.

No big man in the middle. No glass cleaner or shot blocker or imposing force in the lane.

And that's just fine with Gaddis because when he looks at a roster others might view as too short and not good enough, he sees a whole bunch of Danny Gaddises.

He was a youth standout in the Brandon area. And at King High — where he stood 6-2 and weighed 180 pounds — he was one of the top players on a team that lacked height, that relied on smaller guys playing bigger, that got by on hard-nosed defense.

It's how he played at the University of Tampa and the Riverfront and Harbour Island pro-am leagues after that.

"At the time, I did not shoot well," Gaddis said. "I made my living off first-step driving and defense. I loved playing defense."

Tough. Relentless. In your face.

"I coach my kids to play like I did," he said.

His style — and the players buying into it — have produced a 25-4 season, 10 straight wins and 15 wins in 16 games.

Lennard is the only school in Hillsborough County still playing basketball.

• • •

Anthony Gaddis Sr. said he thought his son might be an architect when his basketball playing days were over.

But Veronica Gaddis suggested he look into substitute teaching. That led him to Brandon, where former coach Mark Hermann brought him on as an assistant.

Gaddis took over Lennard in 2009. He coached varsity and junior varsity out of necessity, slowly building both programs and developing a rabid following of fans. He is still one of the few in the state who coaches both.

But that has allowed him to quickly develop players — such as current seniors Gary Hector and Caelen Watts.

"When I walked in here four years ago, I said we're going to win a state title," said Hector, one of the team leaders. "You could feel it in the gym."

After a 10-14 season in 2011-12, the Longhorns bounced back with a 17-8 campaign last season that set the table for today's destination.

The senior-laden Longhorns, ranked No. 12 by the Times in the preseason Tampa Bay poll, avenged regular-season losses to Chamberlain and Jefferson in the district tournament, beat Mitchell in the first round of the playoffs with a miraculous buzzer-beater then stunned state contender Largo in the second round.

Last week, they weathered an early Lehigh surge and took control in securing their place at state.

"We just felt after four years, it was our time," Watts said.

"We're not surprised."

• • •

The first thing Gaddis will throw on today, as he has all season, is a black T-shirt with a pink depiction of Rosie the Riveter.

Underneath, it says "Grinstead Strong" for Michelle Grinstead, a co-worker of Gaddis' who has breast cancer.

Then he will put on the same clothes he wore for the region final. He says he's not superstitious — maybe just kind of.

And he will walk into The Lakeland Center, dapper. His team will walk in with him, confident and determined.

It's state championship basketball. The best of the best. The last four teams playing in the state.

Lennard, and its coach, will look the part.

John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JohnnyHomeTeam.

Today's state semifinals

Where: The Lakeland Center

Admission/parking: $10 per session; $8

6A: Lennard (25-4) vs. Lake Minneola (27-3), 4 p.m.

5A: Lakewood (19-11) vs. Gainesville Eastside (24-6), 11:30 a.m.

Column: Lennard coach Danny Gaddis the complete package 02/27/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Downs full of high-paying races this season


    OLDSMAR — Tampa Bay Downs is green like never before.

  2. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  3. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.
  4. Quarterback Jameis Winston will start Sunday for the Bucs


    TAMPA — Jameis Winston hadn't thrown in practice since he injured his right shoulder in Sunday's loss at Arizona, and with that uncertainty, a wide line of TV cameras and reporters' cellphones were all out Friday morning, recording the moment as Winston tested his shoulder with his first throws early in …

    Despite a sore shoulder, Jameis Winston will be making his 38th consecutive start since being drafted first overall in 2015.
  5. Bucs journal: LB Kwon Alexander ready to return from injury


    TAMPA — LB Kwon Alexander, sidelined by a hamstring injury since the second quarter of the Bucs' season opener against Chicago, will finally make a healthy return Sunday against the Bills.

    Linebacker Kwon Alexander needs “to get my stats back up” after being out since the opener.