See if you can answer the following Birmingham sports trivia questions.
#1) What small private high school in Birmingham has won 37 state championships in nine different sports, making it one of the most successful athletic programs for a school its size in Alabama?
#2) Who is the leading scorer in UAB basketball history?
Hint: They both have something in common.
Answers: The Altamont School and Steve Mitchell, UAB’s basketball All-American from the 1980s who this summer was named the school’s new athletic director.
Meet Steve Mitchell
Last week, Bham Now sat down with Mitchell in his office that looks out at Altamont’s recently renovated basketball gymnasium.
Mitchell comes to the school after retiring from UAB as director of its Bartow Arena. Along with running the 8,500-seat multipurpose facility, he held numerous roles within the UAB athletic department over 25 years ranging from overseeing and tracking student-athlete academic progress and compliance to serving as a broadcaster/analyst for UAB basketball games.
History with Altamont
As a resident of Birmingham for more than three decades, Mitchell forged a special connection with Altamont over the years.
“I first became familiar with the school 30+ years ago when the former athletic director was Ralph Patton. I met him when I was 18 years old through Daryl Braden, a player on the first UAB team who we refer to as the ‘godfather of UAB basketball.’ Over the years I would speak at Patton’s basketball camps, even coached a 5th/6th grade team. I’ve always known that Altamont is a very special place with talented and special people. I never imagined that someday I would be in charge of the athletic program.”
Special Relationship with Birmingham and UAB’s Coach Bartow
A native of Memphis, Mitchell is often asked about how he came to Birmingham to play basketball and his relationship with the legendary UAB basketball head coach Gene Bartow.
“Birmingham has always been near and dear to my heart. My father is from Birmingham. Growing up, he was close to his siblings, so every opportunity, he would take our family kicking and screaming to Birmingham. Back then it took five hours on a two-lane road to travel between Memphis and Birmingham.”
That connection brought Mitchell back to the Magic City when he was being recruited by Coach Bartow in the early 1980s.
“My dad was the best judge of character I ever saw in my life. He said [about Bartow], ‘now that is an honest man. I like him.’”
According to Mitchell, “Every promise that Coach made, he kept. My dad was right. Coach Bartow had the most influence on my life outside of my father. I miss him.”
Facilities and People
When we met Mitchell in early August, he was just beginning to unload his boxes and mount art on his office walls.
“When you think of athletics, obviously great programs start with good facilities and good people,” said Mitchell. “For a 2A school, I’d be shocked to find any school that has facilities as nice as the ones we have at Altamont.”
Vision at Altamont
When asked about his aspirations and vision for the Altamont athletic program he added,
“My vision is to continue to provide the leadership in this department for these kids to have the opportunity to become as good an athlete as they dream to be. I want to attract quality coaches with this like-minded philosophy: kids first. Every decision I make as athletic director will be in the best interest of Altamont, putting these kids at the forefront. I want to build upon what has already been established and make the school even better than I found it.”
Perfect Landing Spot
After 25 years, Steve Mitchell is ready to begin his second career at Altamont as its new athletic director.
“I couldn’t ask for a better landing spot, after all the things I’ve done. Everyone is so warm and helpful. The family atmosphere is the perfect fit for me.”
Altamont offers nine AHSAA varsity athletic programs and has athletic opportunities for students in grades 5-12. During the 2018-19 school year, the Knights won two state championships and three state runner up titles.
Learn more at altamontschool.org/athletics.