Pat Abney and his younger brother, Bo, are both head coaches of high-profile basketball programs in East Cobb: Pat coaches at Pope, and Bo at Walton. And despite the potential for sibling rivalry between the two, both have the utmost respect and wish nothing but success for the other. “We are each other’s biggest fans,” says Pat. “We have always been really close and talk nearly every day.”
Walton and Pope high schools are located near each other—very near—3.5 miles near to be exact. The proximity has created a natural rivalry between the schools, even though Pope is 6A and Walton is 7A. But any fans wanting to see the coaches square off in the Abney Bowl will have to wait; the brothers don’t play each other in the regular season.
“We played one regular season game two years ago,” Pat said, “and it was miserable for both of us. It was no fun to prepare to beat the other one. We never have had any sibling rivalry at all and we didn’t like having to try and compete against each other.” This may sound like hyperbole, but with the Abney brothers, it’s true. Both coaches are extremely competitive and driven to win, but not at the expense of the other.
“Being 11 years older than me, I’ve always looked up to Pat as an athlete, coach, and most importantly a man of God and a husband and father,” Bo said. “He has taught me the value of preparing a team for each season and game and adapting strategies based upon your team’s strengths and weaknesses. He is a great example for younger coaches on how to build a successful program both on and off the court.”
Bo also played for Pat at Pope. In fact, Bo was inducted into the Pope Hall of Fame several years ago. “Most Pope people consider him to be our best shooter of all-time,” said Pat. “Playing for Pat was a great experience,” agreed Bo. “He always pushed me to be a better player and teammate.”
Basketball runs in the Abney household; you could say it’s a family tradition. Both Abney parents played basketball and so did Bo and Pat’s two sisters. “Mom and Dad were at all of our sporting events and our biggest supporters,” Bo said. Both brothers also played golf in college, and Bo even played professionally for a couple years before returning to high school basketball as a coach. Pat received a golf scholarship to Georgia Tech, and eventually transferred to Kennesaw State University to play both golf and basketball. He was named an All-American in golf at KSU and was also inducted into their Athletic Hall of Fame. “It was an incredibly special honor,” Pat said.
And while Pat and Bo do not play a regular season game, they do play a scrimmage each season. “Both the Walton and Pope administrators agreed to simply let us have a scrimmage game against each other instead of a real regular season game,” Pat said. “Scrimmage games are a glorified practice and the outcome of who wins doesn’t count towards anything. We will continue to do that each year and the players and fans can still have the fun competition of Walton vs Pope, but it will not be as stressful for me and Bo.”
Both Coach Bo and Pat are having great seasons as they look to finish strong against regional opponents. Walton is 12-7 (3-2 region), and Pope is 13-5 (7-3 region).