After five years of coaching alongside a legend, Trentavious “Tay” McCants is getting his chance to take the lead at Lanett.
McCants was promoted from assistant boys basketball coach to head coach on Monday. McCants replaces AHSAA Hall of Fame coach Richard Carter, who retired in March after 49 years of coaching.
“It’s an honor, and it’s great. You’ve got to go back and look at the coaches who have been here,” said McCants, who has coached at Lanett a total of six years now. “There have been some big coaches come through, and I just hope I can continue that success at Lanett and fill those big shoes.”
McCants played high school basketball at Valley and parlayed that into a four-year playing career at North Alabama. After graduating from college, he started his coaching career with his father, Trent, on the AAU circuit before getting involved with Lanett’s junior varsity team.
After one year, Carter brought McCants up to coach with the varsity squad. Carter tasked McCants in running the offense and helping the Panthers transition to a more fastbreak, transition-heavy style of play with the ball, which proved to be a fruitful change for the program.
“I think he’s going to do a really, really good job because he’s a knowledgeable person and he’s an energetic person,” Carter said. “He’s a very, very likeable person. I think that’s the best word I can use. He’s jovial. He’s fun-loving.” “He’s a likeable person. The kids like him. Expect him to be tough and to be firm because he is. I think they’re going to be getting an exciting basketball coach.”
For McCants, the chance to learn under Carter was nothing short of invaluable.
“The whole time, it’s a learning experience. Who wouldn’t want to be with one of the greats like coach Carter?” McCants said. “His take on the whole thing, it’s not just basketball with him. He always said this was his ministry. He always instilled God and faith into our young men, and he was instilling it to me at the same time.
“I’m not just looking at it as basketball; I’m looking at it as making young men. I thank coach Carter for that because he helped me grow up to be a nice young man also.”
McCants is now at the helm of one of the premier basketball programs in Alabama. The Panthers were one of Class 1A’s teams to beat in the 2019-2020 season, and the team rode that momentum to their fourth state title game appearance in five years. Unlike the previous three trips, Lanett came up short in February, falling to Pickens County 57-55.
The Panthers lost several key seniors from that team — including forwards Cameron and Zameron Boozer as well as guard Kristian Story — but the team doesn’t lack talent coming back. Those returning playmakers have the benefit of already knowing McCants and his expectations, which has him hopeful the upcoming group can pick up right where the last one left off.
McCants expressed excitement about his new opportunity while keeping his focus on the road ahead. He now finds himself as the head coach of a team that many expect to be a top contender in Class 2A next season, and he’s eager to help the Panthers realize that potential.
“Look at Lanett’s history. It’s a championship pedigree, and I just plan on continuing that in filling coach Carter’s shoes. Being under (athletic director) Clifford Story’s leadership, I can’t go wrong,” McCants said. “I’m ready. (The players) say they miss me, but like I tell them it’s time to get to work. We’re going to be patient though because football is always first. They always set the tone like last year.
“They just won a state championship, so they’re going to do the same thing this year and we’re going to try and keep it going with a basketball state championship, too. Hey, just get ready to get to work.”