There will be some familiar faces in new places when the LaFayette Ramblers and Lady Ramblers take to the basketball court next season.
Tommy Swanson, who has coached the Ramblers for the past five seasons, will slide over to take the reins of the Lady Ramblers program, while assistant coach Hank Peppers has been elevated to the boys’ heading coach post.
Swanson is taking over the Lady Ramblers’ program from Matt Swanson, who stepped down after 11 seasons on the job.
“We were having discussion about doing what was right for the entire basketball program, not just the boys or the girls,” Swanson said. “I approached (LaFayette principal Mike) Culberson and told him that half of my coaching experience was spent coaching girls, and I just felt like it would be a logical move.”
Swanson has coached girls’ basketball for 10 of his 20 seasons on the bench. He led the Calhoun Lady Jackets for eight seasons before coaching the Trion Lady Bulldogs for two.
He later coached the Trion boys for five seasons before being hired at LaFayette. He has over 300 wins in his career and guided the Ramblers to an upset of third-ranked Walnut Grove and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen during the 2011-12 season.
“We’ve got some good players coming back,” Swanson said of his new team. “The boys and girls’ teams travel together, so I’ve seen (the girls) play a lot. I feel like I know the strengths of the players we have returning, and hopefully we can continue working hard to keep both programs as strong as we can.”
Peppers, a 2004 graduate of Trion, played for Swanson and joined the Bulldogs’ staff as a community coach while finishing his teaching degree.
He later was hired by LaFayette High School and has spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Ramblers.
He said he was nearly speechless when told of the promotion.
“Anytime you have a goal and continue to work hard toward it and finally achieve it, it’s hard to put it into words,” he said. “I’m very excited and enthused about it, and hopefully we can continue the success that (Swanson) has had here. I have big shoes to fill, but it’s a huge opportunity for me and something I’ve been looking forward to for years. I’ve tried to work hard and work my way up the ranks, and I’ve learned a lot under the great leadership of Coach Swanson.
“I like the guys on the team and the community support we have here. We have a great booster club, and a great principal in Mr. Culberson, who really supports his coaches. It’s just a great situation for me and I’m happy to be here.”
Swanson said he felt Peppers has the attributes and experience needed to be a good head coach.
“He’s had a big part in the success we’ve had here at LaFayette, and I thought it was time for him to take over,” Swanson added. “He’s already had experience making decisions so I know he’s ready. He works hard and puts in the time in the off-season.
“We have a lot coming back with four starters returning from last year’s team, and I think he can take this group and hopefully get them to the next level.”
Both LaFayette teams were a win away from making the state tournament last season.
The Lady Ramblers went 13-15 picking up a Region 7-AAAA tournament win over Cass before losing to Northwest. The Ramblers went 11-15, beating Southeast before losing to Pickens.