RACINE — Tray Allen was named Friday by Park High School activities director Joe Miller as the school’s new boys basketball coach.
The 33-year-old Allen, a 2003 Horlick graduate, replaces Jim Betker, who stepped down in March after 14 seasons as the Panthers’ coach. Allen becomes the 13th head coach in the 90-year history of Park’s program and the first African-American.
Miller said there were 13 applicants for the position, three of whom were interviewed. What tipped the scales toward Allen, a varsity assistant to Betker the last two seasons?
“What tipped the scales in favor of Tray is the fact that he’s in our building,” Miller said. “He works at Park already for our students. Seeing their coach on a daily basis is extremely important and valuable.
“Tray also has tremendous connections in the community with parents and local centers and our students from all across the board just from being in coaching and being a member of Racine his entire life.”
The Racine native, who was born Travian Allen, transferred from Park to Horlick prior to his sophomore year in 2000. As a senior during the 2002-03 season, he started on longtime coach Dave Krause’s final team at Horlick.
He went on to UW-Parkside, where he earned a degree in 2009 in sports fitness management. Allen is in his fifth year as a faculty member of the Racine Unified School District and was at Mitchell Middle School for four years before becoming a freshman advocate at Park last August.
Allen’s wife is the former Natasha Smith, a 2004 Horlick graduate who was a three-sport athlete at the school. They are the parents of daughters Kaleah, 10, and Kierra, 3.
Starting this November, Allen will have a second family with his basketball team. He’ll largely be starting over after the graduation of Nobal Days and Larry Canady, both four-year starters, from last year’s 17-6 team. Days has signed with the University of Tulane in New Orleans while Canady is Park’s all-time leading scorer.
Among those returning is Ricky Canady, Larry’s brother who will be the only returning starter, and four other letterwinners — Stevie Henderson, Terry Gamble, Tyler Huck and Isaiah Herron.
“It’s possibly a tough situation for some people,” Allen said when asked about that imposing rebuilding task. “I feel I’ve been battle tested and overcame a lot of things.
“I don’t mind rebuilding. It’s actually a good thing to me. In building trust with the guys, I can do a lot of things that I want to do. I think if everyone buys in, we’ll be fine.”
Betker is confident the program will remain in good hands with Allen.
“It was a great choice,” said Betker, who went 220-109 with five Southeast Conference championships and seven regional titles. “Trey works extremely well with the kids and holds them accountable. He has high standards in the classroom, on the court and off the court and in the community.
“The things we do community-service wise, that’s important to him and his family. You can just tell there’s a family with the Park program and I think that’s going to continue with him as the coach.”
Allen credits longtime local basketball coach Rudy Collum as one of his biggest mentors.
“I just liked him overall as a person,” Allen said. “He made me love the game. It was always fun with him. He made me work hard. There were no favorites. Everybody had an opportunity.
“I think the majority of kids in the city who played for coach Rudy turned out to be very good kids outside of basketball. I’m just thankful for him being there for me in the beginning and giving me the love for the game.”