Tasha Humphrey was looking forward to Thursday for a long time.
It was a trip — even if just for a few hours — back to Gainesville.
The fact that it was for basketball made it that much more sweet for the record-setting, All-American during her playing career from 2001-2004 at Gainesville High.
“I’m very happy to be back,” Humphrey said. “I have so many great memories playing in Gainesville.”
Now 35, and retired from the game she loves that provided her the chance to play all over the world, Humphrey is satisfied with the next chapter of her life as the second-year boys basketball coach at The Weber School in Sandy Springs.
And the latest game on the region schedule for the private Jewish school was against Lakeview Academy, a matchup that brought to the game a smattering of her supporters, who all remember Humphrey’s illustrious career with the Red Elephants, University of Georgia and the WNBA.
Coaching at a Hebrew school, Weber plays games region games on Thursday to be able to observe the Shabbat, the weekly Jewish Sabbath that starts at sundown every Friday.
“Everyone in our region has been great in accommodating us having Friday off,” Humphrey said.
Through her four years with the Red Elephants, which included three state championships and three times being tabbed Miss Georgia Basketball, Humphrey said Thursday’s game was her first at Lakeview Academy.
“I remember playing Lakeview in Lanierland, but never (against them) here on their floor,” said Humphrey, who also coaches the junior varsity girls program at The Weber School.
Most of Humphrey’s players were born about the time she graduated from high school.
They’re too young to have seen the legendary center, who topped 2,000 points for Georgia and was a first-round pick in the WNBA.
However, word spread quick when she took the job at Weber about Humphrey’s talent, a superstar far more talented than everyone else she faced in high school.
Lakeview Academy coach Tyler Sanders, who played at Johnson High, said Humphrey might be the best player in Hall County history.
“When it was crunch time, I remember how Tasha would completely take over a game,” Sanders said. “And she could do it playing any of the five positions.”
Right behind Humphrey in the stands Thursday was her mother, Brenda Hill, who is a veteran girls head coach, including six seasons at Gainesville High.
Hill is thrilled for her daughter.
“Tasha loves it (at Weber),” said Hill, who now coaches at Monroe Area High.
Humphrey worked in the business world after her professional career ended.
Hill suggested that her daughter get into coaching, but at the time, the answer was no.
However, Humphrey said she was glancing online at available coaching positions four years ago and stumbled on to the opportunity at The Weber School.
“I realized I wasn’t fulfilled without being involved with basketball,” Humphrey said.
Although she is working with players of a different faith, Humphrey — who spent time playing professionally in Israel — appreciates that the current crop of players she coaches who have the same love of the game of basketball.
“Coach Humphrey has so much passion for the game of basketball, but more importantly, she wants us to be better humans,” Weber School junior Zachary Kurtz said, after a 59-34 loss to Lakeview Academy.
Even though coaching wasn’t Humphrey’s initial ambition after her playing career ended, some of the men she played for made an indelible mark on her life.
First, there’s Manson Hill, her highly-respected coach at Gainesville High.
Later, she played for Bill Laimbeer, an NBA legend for the Detroit Pistons, who later coached the Detroit Shock.
However, Tasha’s biggest influence is her mother.
Both have a no-nonsense approach to the game and expect 100% from the five players on the floor.
“Tasha’s so fiery, just like her mother,” said Adrian Penland, who is director of the North Georgia Report, a recruiting-based service for high school basketball players. “Tasha’s teaching those kids to play with toughness they need to be successful.”
Even though Humphrey is happy with her current situation, she will leave the door open to eventually coming back to coach in Gainesville.
Humphrey said the days are long, juggling the responsibilities that come with coaching two basketball teams at Weber, but still enjoys every minute of it.
“I’ll be going home and realize it’s 9 or 10 at night, but it’s all worth it,” Humphrey said.