HALL OF FAME SPOTLIGHT: Al Andrew

Some people have second thoughts about their career choices … but not Al Andrew.

Al Andrew

“I am so thankful that I chose to be a teacher and coach … I enjoyed being in education so much and working with some wonderful co-workers. I’ve been blessed to have coached some great young people,” he said in response to his selection to the Stanly County Sports Hall of Fame.

Before moving into a highly successful career coaching baseball, basketball and golf, Andrew grew up in Albemarle in a sports-minded family, and played every sport he could.

“Whatever the season was, that was our favorite sport,” he said, adding, “playing and being involved in sports were a very important part of me and my two brothers’ youth. Our parents were our biggest supporters and never pushed or pressured us to play anything. I also owe a lot of my development and love for sports, basketball in particular, to my best friend, Jimmy Boyd. He was like a big brother to me and really was my first ‘coach.’ ”

Andrew also credits mentors from the Stanly County Family YMCA, the Optimist Midget Baseball League and later at Albemarle High School with honing his interest and love of athletics.

“At the Y, we were fortunate to have Clyde Alligood and John Sturgeon touch our lives — two great men who cared about all of us,” he said. “At Optimist, we were taught the fundamentals of baseball from my uncle, Joe Kelly (also a Stanly County Sports Hall of Fame member).”

A three-sport athlete in the 1970s at Albemarle High School, Andrew is quick to give credit to his coaches there.

“I was fortunate to play in high school for excellent coaches — Doyle Shaw and Larry Fast in baseball, Will Campagna in football, Lanny Lowder in JV basketball and Dave Holcomb in varsity basketball,” he said. “Things I learned as a player from these coaches were applied throughout my coaching career.”

After earning his degree from UNC-Chapel Hill Andrew returned home, where he was hired in 1984 by then-Athletic Director Dave Bright.

“He (Bright) and Joanne Hesley were two of the best athletics directors in the state,” said Andrew. “They were so supportive of our school and students. Our coaching staff was fortunate to work for both.

“These staff members included Bob Johnston, Paul Kluttz (HOF member), Agnes Maske (HOF member), Jack Gaster, and Gary Moran, and I’m sure I’m leaving some out. All were great coaches and mentors.”

Andrew, however, singled out one coach as especially influential.

“The coach who had the most influence on my career was Coach Holcomb. My years as his assistant were some of the best times in my coaching career. I’m so lucky to have been mentored by one of the best high school coaches in the state. Any success I had in my career I owe all to him.”

Success in wins and losses does not just happen, and this is a key point Andrew has taught the young people he has coached, counting among them numerous business and community leaders.

“Sports teaches so much that you can apply later in life, you just don’t realize it at the time,” he said. “One thing I always believed in was the harder you work, the luckier you get.”

For today’s athletes, Andrew expressed agreement with several fellow HOF inductees regarding issues including specialization and the state of amateur sports.

“I see a couple of negatives … first is kids specializing in one sport. I always liked our athletes to play other sports … winning breeds winning,” he said. “Another is college (and in some cases high school) sports, are becoming more and more like professional sports. I really don’t like the direction college athletics is headed with NIL and the transfer portal. We will see what the future holds.”

In summarizing his induction, Andrew gave a shout out to the many young people whose lives he touched through sports.

“My former players are the reason I am receiving this honor — and I can’t thank them enough and will always remember that.”

Andrew is one of five persons who will be inducted into the Stanly County Sports Hall of Fame July 17. Tickets to the 6:30 p.m. induction ceremony are available for $35 in advance at Albemarle City Hall, Albemarle Parks and Recreation (Jesse F. Niven Center and E. E. Waddell Center), Starnes-Bramlett Jewelers and Uwharrie Dash, Locust City Hall and Oakboro Town Hall.