After the 2018-19 basketball season, longtime Kennesaw Mountain boys basketball coach Jesse Bonner retired after 37 years in education, but the school has found a way to lure him back.
The school will be dedicating the court after Bonner, who started the program from scratch when the school opened in 2000.
The Mustangs’ longtime mentor will be honored Jan. 10 when Kennesaw Mountain hosts McEachern, with a ceremony taking place between the girls and boys games. Former players are expected to attend, including many members of the Mustangs’ 2005 region championship team.
Bonner’s name will be inscribed on the court.
“I was elated when (Kennesaw Mountain) called and told me they were going to do that,” said Bonner, who notched his 500th career victory Jan. 5, 2018 against Hillgrove. “It’s hard to describe. You don’t coach for that, and for that to happen, my jaw dropped when they told me.”
Kennesaw Mountain had previously named its football field after coach Scott Jones in 2010. Like Bonner, Jones was at Kennesaw Mountain from the start before stepping down after the 2009 season.
Among the highlights later in Bonner’s tenure at the school was taking the Mustangs to the state playoffs for four straight years from 2015-18. Arguably his best season came in 2004-05, when Kennesaw Mountain won the region title, was ranked as high as No. 4 in the state and advanced to the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals.
Kennesaw Mountain athletic director Philip Matthews, who has worked with the school’s girls basketball program for 14 years, said naming the court was something he always wanted to do, but when principal Nathan Stark suggested it openly, they went to the Cobb County School District to get the official approval.
“Nathan Stark brought it up to me and said we should name the court after coach Bonner,” Matthews said. “This is my 15th year at Kennesaw Mountain, and I am lucky to have coached basketball there for a long time. (Bonner) is a guy I built a strong relationship with over that time. He dedicated 19 years of his career to Kennesaw Mountain. It’s just special to play a small role in honoring him.”
Before starting Kennesaw Mountain’s program, Bonner coached at Douglass, Villa Rica and Cartersville, taking each team to the state tournament. He made two trips to the state semifinals while at Douglass.
In his three-plus decades as a head coach, Bonner was known to be defensive-minded, constantly stressing rebounding and playing man-to-man defense.