Terrance McGriff

Terrance McGriff

For more than 27 years, his name has been synonymous with basketball in Polk County and the state of Florida.

He is most well-known for his 21-year stint coaching the Bartow High School boys basketball team, where he began in 2003 with a team that won six games in his first season. Piece by piece, he built the Yellow Jackets into a program that not only won championships but, more importantly, builds young men of character.

Born in northwest Lakeland, Terrence McGriff, and his twin brother, Darrence, quickly fell in love with basketball at the local Boys & Girls Club. That love led him – along with two other friends – to start the Lakeland Fire youth basketball program in 1997 while a senior at Kathleen High School. He continued to run the program while a student at Florida Southern College.

In fact, McGriff was still a student at Florida Southern College when he started his high school coaching career. He was the junior varsity coach at Kathleen High School, and was on the bench, when the Red Devils won the 2001 State Championship.

The next year he took the helm of the Bartow Yellow Jackets. It took McGriff, who is also a physical education teacher at the school, eight years – and many of the lessons he’d learned along the way – to mold Bartow’s first state champion.

“Growing up, it was all about faith and family,” said McGriff. “That faith and belief in family is what it took to rebuild the Bartow program. I thank God for my incredible coaching staff, as the original three coaches I hired that first year are still coaching with me. I thank God they are men of faith and men who believe in family values. Sundays, after church, my whole family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – gathered for dinner. Plenty of people, and plenty of food. I took this idea first to the Fire, then to Bartow. From the very beginning, we included the coaches and their families. We want the young men we coach to see us as husbands and fathers, not just coaches. We built a family.”

By 2010, his eighth season, he’d led Bartow to its first state championship in 22 years. That success continued – they’ve earned 11 district titles and six region titles along the way – culminating in back-to-back state championships in 2020 and 2021. The Yellow Jackets were the first boys’ basketball program to win consecutive titles in Polk County history post-integration.

He is also the only coach in state history to be named the Florida Dairy Farmers boys basketball Coach of the Year back-to-back and one of only two coaches to ever win the award more than once. But he doesn’t claim all the success for himself.

“The success we’ve had in Bartow is a collective effort,” said McGriff. “We’ve had two great principals and a steady coaching staff. The faculty and the community support the team, as do the businesses in town. And, of course, none if it would be possible without great players and the support of parents. I’ve just been blessed to shepherd their efforts.”

Besides the Fire youth program, McGriff also took of the reins of the Mosaic Stinger Shootout in 2009. Since then, it has grown to become the premier high school boys basketball event in Central Florida. With nothing left to prove at the high school level, why doesn’t one of the winningest coaches in Florida move on?

“All of this has been God’s plan for my life,” said McGriff. “I didn’t realize it when I started this journey.”

Off the court, Coach McGriff and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters, Charlotte and Violet.