Brad Lovely knew he wanted to be a head coach ever since he was a young boy growing up in Harlan County.
He spent much of his adult life working towards that goal.
Earlier this week, that childhood dream became a reality when Lovely was named the head coach of the Madison Central girls basketball team.
He takes over for Robbie Cooksey, who accepted the athletic director position at the school earlier this summer.
Lovely, who was an assistant under Cooksey for 11 years, said he caught the coaching bug early from his father, who was a football and basketball coach.
"I learned so much from him," Lovely said of his father. "Growing up, I loved it. We were at practice and games and just the entire year-round was about how to make the team better. He was a great coach and the connections he made with his players and the dedication he had to them was a great example for me. I knew it was what I wanted to do."
That passion for the game led Lovely to major in health and physical education teaching at Eastern Kentucky University after graduating from James A. Cawood High School in 1999, where he also played football and basketball.
Lovely received his Masters degree from the University of Cumberlands and taught at the elementary level for 13 years.
The past two years, Lovely has been at Madison Central, where his wife also teaches science.
The couple have two young boys -- six-year-old Isaiah and three-year-old Silas.
Before accepting an assistant coaching job with Cooksey, Lovely spent three years coaching basketball and football at Clark Moores Middle School.
With more than a decade with the Lady Indians, Lovely said Central is his home and he is honored to be the next head coach.
It's a position he has been waiting patiently for much of his life.
"Sometimes it was tough," Lovely said of the drive to be a head coach. "I have had some friends ask me why I stayed. Cooksey even offered to help me if I ever wanted to go somewhere else and be a head coach. There have been offers and plenty of opportunities."
However, Lovely said he knew where his heart was.
"I turned them all down. This is where I need to be. I told them, 'I'll just wait my turn.' Central is home. I love our school and our community and our program. I enjoy coaching the Lady Indians. I'm happy here and my family is happy here. So, I waited," Lovely explained.
Cooksey is glad that Lovely stayed and that the long-time assistant is finally getting his chance to be a head coach.
"In the past couple of years, there have been jobs that have opened up. And I asked him if he wanted to put his name out there," Cooksey said. "He's been a huge part of a winning program. There's not a lot of people who stay with you for 11 years. I really, really respect him for that. He could have easily made an opportunity for himself somewhere else. But, he stuck to his guns. He knew what he wanted and I'm glad it worked out for him."
That patience paid off and Lovely said he is thrilled with how it worked out.
"I'm very excited. It will be so great to be in that seat. I'm so grateful for Coach Cooksey. He is one of the best coaches in the state. He knows his stuff and he trusted me and gave me a lot of responsibility as an assistant. It really helped prepare me for this," Lovely said.
During Cooksey's tenure as the Lady Indians head coach, the team was 224-122 in 11 seasons and won nine district titles and two region championships.
"I have big shoes to fill -- I know," Lovely said when reflecting on the program's recent success. "I got to learn a lot from Cooksey. The great thing about him taking the AD job is that he is still here. I can always lean on him. He is a good resource to have right there."
Lovely said he was a bit nervous about getting the job, but received a lot of support from the the school and the team.
"It's kind of crazy. It's been a whirlwind. I had a good feeling about the job, but you never know. The players knew I wanted it and they told me they wanted to play for me, but there are a lot of great coaches out there and the school was going to pick the best for them… I've had a lot of players on the team congratulate me and said the were excited I got it. I just want to be the best for them and do the best job I can. I hope I can give them that," Lovely said.
The coach said he expects the transition to be smooth and will likely make changes slowly.
"I know the capability of our girls. I'm very excited about our future. I want to bring back that up-tempo style of game that the players love to play. In the past, we pressed a lot. I would like to emphasize and work on that man-to-man style of defense. I'm just excited to get our athletes and let them play ball," Lovely said.
The coach said he hopes to continue Central's strong legacy on and off the court and is ready to get to work.
"I'm just so excited and honored to be able to share the game that I love. Sports was so impactful for me growing up and I think it helps prepare you for life. The friendships and connections you make as part of a team stick with you. I want it to be a family. I'm proud of Central and I want us to be out in the community and get everyone involved," Lovely said.
After waiting a lifetime to make the calls from the sidelines, Lovely said it was worth the wait.
"It's my first head coaching job and I want it to be my last," he said. "I want to be Central's girls basketball coach for as long as I can. It's just an amazing feeling."