Gooden steps down as Lawrence Central coach


For Al Gooden, the timing seemed right after 40 years of coaching.

Gooden recently announced his retirement as Lawrence Central High School boys basketball coach.

Gooden said he had been thinking about retirement for a while.

Al Gooden

“I had the banquet coming up,” he said. “I thought it would be a good time for me to tell the kids.”

Gooden had a 133-79 record in his nine seasons with Lawrence Central. He previously coached Fort Wayne Harding for 21 years, winning a Class 2A state championship in 2001. Harding was Class 3A state runner-up in 2002.

When Harding was closed as a high school, Gooden served as New Haven coach for three years before becoming Lawrence Central’s coach. The Lawrence resident became the first Black high school coach to win 500 games in Indiana two years ago. His overall record in 35 seasons as a head coach is 535-307. The Bears finished 15-8 this season. His 2018-19 team finished 22-4 and won a sectional title.

Gooden said he was never concerned about his own records.

“I enjoyed the game of basketball, and I enjoyed coaching kids,” Gooden said.

Gooden’s son, Al Gooden Jr., was a freshman coach for Lawrence Central last season. Gooden’s grandson, Albert Gooden III, was a freshman for the Bears last season.

“I’m just going to enjoy watching my grandson play,” Gooden said.

Gooden played at Fort Wayne Wayne High School and Ball State University. He was inducted into the Ball State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991. The 6-foot-5 forward had a career field goal percentage of .580 and led the team to its first-ever Mid-American Conference Tournament title and its first NCAA Tournament berth as a senior in 1981.

“I won a state championship, and I got a chance to coach my grandson,” Gooden said of special moments in coaching. “I coached a Mr. Basketball (Kyle Guy in 2016) and several NBA players.”

Gooden said he didn’t want to let down his coaching standards.

“I’m an old-school guy and it’s just a good time to get out,” said Gooden, who will decide at the end of the school year whether he wants to keep teaching.