Sarden’s Story: A Road Less Traveled


Keeva Linton

At The Helm: Sarden has been leading the Dubs for over a decade.

By day Kerry Sarden is one of North Atlanta’s most invaluable health and fitness teachers, but when the clock strikes 3:45, he becomes the school’s basketball coach, a position he has truly flourished in. Despite his long tenure at North Atlanta, Sarden remains a mystery to many students. Do the Dubs know their very own teacher and coach played collegiate basketball? Or professionally overseas?

Before Sarden became the coach he is today, he was a high-level player in Michigan. By the 4th grade at Scripps Elementary, Sarden had already made the 5th and 6th-grade teams, his first taste of organized basketball. He sprouted at Southeastern High School in Detroit, where garnered lots of attention as an All-State caliber player. “I really didn’t think about being a college-level basketball player back in high school. My priority was being the best possible player I could be at the time. However, college coaches started calling me when I was in the 11th grade. As a coach, I think student-athletes sometimes put the cart before the horse. They should focus on being the best player they can be in high school. If you put in the work, coaches will call,” said Sarden. 

Coach Sarden spent his first year of college basketball in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan, a renowned basketball program. After the head coach Johnny Orr left for Iowa State, Sarden entered the transfer portal but stayed close to home, leaving for Olivet College, where he felt the smaller environment would help further his education. At Olivet College, he was named to the All-Conference team two years in a row in 1982 and 1983, and was their leading scorer in the 1981-1982 season, where he averaged 16 points per game on 45% shooting. His success as an Olivet College Comet resulted in international interest from teams in Italy. “I graduated from college when I was 21 years old, and going to Italy was the first time I traveled overseas, let alone by myself,” said Sarden, “It was scary at first and challenging with the language barrier, but it opened my eyes to new cultures and different people. Being just a train ride away from more than 20 countries, was completely foreign to me. I came home a different person!”

Sarden played for ten years overseas in Milan, Italy. Afterward, he decided to come back to the states, this time as a coach. Starting at Mays High School as an assistant, Sarden left for North Atlanta when given an opportunity to be a head coach. When asked about the all-important “why” of becoming a coach, Sarden gave an answer that shows his passion for basketball, “I love the game of basketball. I love the lessons the game teaches. Like everything in life, there is a mental aspect, a more intellectual side. Basketball has taught me how to work with others, deal with adversity, be resilient, and lead, and if you really become a student of the game, you will see mathematics and sciences in the game. I coach because I like helping young people develop into strong adults.”

For 16 years, Sarden has served the community as a teacher and coach, embracing the school and defining what it means to be a North Atlanta Warrior. As head coach, he won the Region Championship in 2019 and led them to the State Final Four in the same season. His tough love coaching philosophy contrasts perfectly with his easy-going and empathetic personality, making him a loved figure in the halls of North Atlanta and a feared competitor when opponents enter the “Wardome.”