2017 INDUCTEE - RICKY ALLEN
By David Elwell
The Decatur Daily
Ricky Allen built a championship dynasty at Brewer
The view from the deck of Ricky Allen's home on Brindlee Mountain extends for miles to the west. On a clear day he can see the water tower across the street from Decatur High. To the right he points out the spot in Priceville where he grew up. To the left he shows you where Brewer High School is hidden by the trees."We always wanted some land on the mountain with a great view," Allen said.
Allen and his wife Charlotte purchased the 80 acres in 2000. It took him two years to build their house. He also made some of the furniture. "When I was growing up and happened to be sitting down, I always had a pen or pencil and paper in my hand," Allen said. "Most kids would be doodling, but I would be drawing house plans. I guess I should have been an architect.
Actually, Allen was an architect. Starting in 1985, his blueprint for success created one of the winningest girls basketball programs in the state. In 30 years his teams won 604 games, 17 Morgan County Tournament championships and the Class 5A state championship in 2012.
He had nine players make all-State. Just like he built his house, Allen painstakingly constructed Brewer girls basketball from foundation up. It started with girls in elementary school coming to his basketball camps. He would scout future talent by watching the teams of the junior highs that feed into Brewer. He always made a point to stand under the goal so not to give the impression he favored one side over the other. "I was like all the girls that played basketball at the feeder schools. We all wanted to be good enough to play at Brewer for Ricky Allen," said Christy Thomaskutty, a four-time All-State selection.
Since Brewer opened in 1972 each sport has had its moments of success. The first boys basketball team, with Allen in the starting lineup, went to the state tournament in 1973. No sport has matched the long-term success of girls basketball. The hard work reached a milestone in 1990 when the Brewer girls won their first county tournament championship. Thomaskutty was the tournament MVP. "That was a big deal. It was an exciting a time," Allen said. "There were a lot of great basketball teams and players in North Alabama. It was great when we started competing with them.
"Christy was our first star player. I can remember when Decatur would come to our place and the gym would be packed on both the bottom and top levels. People got to watch three All-State players in Christy and Decatur's Yolanda Watkins and Shondra Fuller."
Thomaskutty was just the start. The talent kept coming and the championship trophies followed. After years of battling powerhouses like Decatur, Athens and Butler just to get to the state tournament, Brewer got a state championship in 2012. Allen coached three more seasons before calling it a career in 2015. "To be successful you have to have talent, but you also have to have parents who are really good people," Allen said. "We had all of that. You have to have chemistry on the floor, but you really need parents who care." If Thomaskutty had her way, she would have been the assistant coach to take over when Allen retired.
"My parents were teachers and they didn't want me to go into teaching," Thomaskutty said.
After Brewer, Thomaskutty starred on the basketball floor and in the classroom at Tulane. She graduated manga cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Management from Tulane's School of Business. She didn't let that degree stop her from getting into coaching. She just finished her 14th season as head coach at NCAA Division III Emory University in Atlanta.
"Next to my dad, Ricky Allen is the most important person in my life," Thomaskutty said. "I can't overstate his impact on me. "It wasn't just me. He had an impact on everybody that played for him. He was more than a coach to all of us."
Allen remains loyal to his players long after they played for him. When Thomaskutty played her last college game in the 1996 NCAA Tournament at Boulder, Colorado, Allen was there. In a 30-year coaching career, he's been to a lot of weddings of former players.
It's been quite a journey for the man who was in the first graduating class at Brewer.
"Brewer was a salvation for me when it opened," Allen said. "I was basically a shy person at Priceville. When Brewer opened I thought it was an opportunity to be a new person. I was a part of that school from 1972 to 2015. That's long time and I loved every minute of it."