Faron Key: Building a lasting legacy
Photos by Jodi Hyde and James Meadows
Hartselle boys basketball coach Faron Key has spent much of his adult life building a lasting legacy in the lives of the players he has coached.
Key grew up in a family of nine and was the sixth of seven children. His father taught him the value of hard work and what commitment looked like, and his mother instilled in him a love for learning. He said family plays an important role in his life, both on and off the court.
Key has been married to his wife Tamisha for 25 years, and they have four children. They met in high school and started dating when they were 16 years old. Their oldest daughter Kayla, 22, will graduate from Faulkner University in December with a degree in education. She played basketball during her four years at Faulkner. Karmyn, 20, is in her second year of college at Blue Mountain College in Mississippi, where she plays volleyball. Kiah, 16, is a sophomore at Hartselle and said he wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps as a teacher and a coach. Kohl, 14, is a freshman at the high school and hasn’t set any plans beyond high school. Both Kiah and Kohl play basketball for their dad.
“Dad is a hard-working and passionate man,” said Kiah. “I’ve never seen him take a day off from scouting someone or just organizing practice. I’ve seen it firsthand, from being at every practice since I was 5 years old to last year playing varsity. He takes every game as seriously as the next, and it was fun to finally be part of that!”
“Being their dad has been the ultimate coaching job,” said Faron. “Being a dad is challenging and rewarding.”
Faron is a man of faith whose belief in Christ was shaped at an early age. He attributes his beliefs to being taught by his parents and siblings. He has spent his adult life sharing his faith with his family. “Being perfect isn’t the goal because I don’t have to be. My sin debt was paid by Jesus,” he said. “All I had to do was receive him as my savior and believe in him.”
Faron said it was during his junior year in high school at West Point that he began considering a career as a teacher and a coach. During his senior year, he was a teacher’s aide for an elementary teacher. He also was part of a mentor and role model program that allowed him to visit elementary schools and share with various classes. It was these moments that showed him his life was to be spent as a teacher. He also realized he wanted to spend his life being a mentor to his students and players.
“Having a role in shaping young people is as vital today, if not more so, as it was when I was in school,” said Key. “We need to surround our kids with as many positive people in their lives as possible.”
Key said his goal each day, whether in the classroom or on the court, is to try to provide a great experience for his students and players. “That starts with my attitude, my energy, my effort and enthusiasm every day,” he said. “You have to do constant inventory on those things every day to be an effective leader of young people.”
Key got his first job as a teacher and a coach at Moody High School. It was thanks to former college teammate Greg Moore that he was asked to interview for the teaching position. The principal hired him on the spot following their brief interview.
His first head coaching job was at Arab High School at the age of 29. He spent eight years as the Knights’ head coach. “The first two years on the job taught me more about myself, leadership, people, perseverance, and persistence than in all my other years combined I think,” said Key. “We only won 15 games in those first two years, but I learned so much about what was important to building a program and winning. I realized after year two that the culture, your habits, your relationships and your togetherness has more effect on winning than anything else I was trying to do.”
In 2014 he got a call from the administration in Hartselle about applying and interviewing for the head coaching position. He said he knew right away that Hartselle was a job worth looking into. “The difference between my start at Arab and my start here was that I had a clear vision for the program and a plan to execute,” said Key. “I spent a lot of time reflecting on what had worked and what had not. I knew that Hartselle had great athletic programs and the kids wanted to be good. I just needed to set the program in the right direction and eventually, it would turn around.”
He said he can vividly remember his first meeting with players in grades seven through 12 and how he carefully and prayerfully chose the words he wanted to say. “My first words were, ‘Good afternoon, guys. I’m Coach Key, and I’m your new leader,’” said Key. “We started that day trying to build relationships with guys who would be playing and trying to set a course for improvement.”
Over his years as head coach, Key has made a tremendous impact on the lives of his students and players. Two former players, Blake Harbin and Isaac Taylor, are now on his coaching staff. Harbin played for Key at Arab and is now married to Key’s oldest daughter, Kayla. Taylor was a guard for Key during his first couple of years at Hartselle.
Tad Sivley played for Key for four years before graduating in spring 2020. Sivley was part of a senior class that experienced the worst of times and the best of times as a Tiger. As a seventh-grader he won one game, and then as a freshman he won five games – but as a senior, he won 27 games. “Coach Key built a legacy in me by always teaching me the importance of never giving up,” Sivley said, “no matter how hard things get.”
Sivley said he learned a lot of lessons from Key during their time together, “but the most important thing he taught me was that playing for something bigger than yourself, such as your teammates, family, or God, makes winning so much sweeter.”
“Coach isn’t just creating good basketball players,” Sivley added. “He’s creating better people who can hopefully one day make the world a better place.”
Brody Peebles is another player who has spent a lot of time learning from Key. Peebles is a two-time all-state performer who has committed to Liberty University. “Coach Key has invested in me since I was young and has always put our relationship above ball,” said Peebles. “He’s taught me how to be a winner and be fully invested, as well as be as a leader, which requires full investment in a team and its members.”
Out of all the lessons Brody has learned from Coach Key, he said one stands out over all of the others: To be great, you have to do what everyone else isn’t willing to do, and even though you might not be the biggest or the strongest, you can always outwork and player harder than everyone else.
Dewayne Peebles said he has seen his boys, Jaxon and Brody, learn from Key over the past few years. “Coach Key means the absolute world to us,” said Dewayne. “It’s a priceless feeling as a parent to know that your son has a coach that is tough and pushes him to be his absolute best – but, at the same time, know he loves him off the court. We are so thankful for his investment in building a successful basketball program and can’t wait to see the success that is still to come.”
“For years being an opposing coach, I can now see why his teams always played very hard and seem to be fearless competitors,” added Jake Miles, who came to Hartselle in 2019 to join the coaching staff under Key. “It is because the team takes on his passion, and they fight for him and with him. The importance of these relationships is sometimes lost when people only focus on wins and losses, when in reality, developing relationships and molding young men are the reasons for sports.”
Miles spent six years as head coach at Austin and saw firsthand the kind of coach and man Key was with his teams. “I think Faron is an excellent role model and mentor to our students because he is a devoted family man, both at home and while he coaches,” said Miles. “He looks at his team as an extension of his family and treats them as such.”
Key said he wants to make great memories with his coaches, players, students and fellow faculty members during his time at Hartselle. How will he know his time at Hartselle has been successful? “When one day I can hear about my players talking about their time here and how we loved one another, worked hard together, laughed together, cried together, won together and ultimately helped each other be our best.”