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Erves supports Stevens, lashes out at Wright

[04/12/01] An assistant coach said the selection process for the new head coach at Vicksburg High was politically motivated and flawed from the start.

Robert Erves, who has been an assistant at VHS for 25 years, said Tuesday that Vicksburg-Warren athletics director Lum Wright Jr. has held a vendetta against the program and has purposefully tried to paint an unfavorable picture of it.

“It’s a slap in the face, like letting one man wreck a program,” Erves said of Wright. “You don’t use a vendetta to wreck a winning program by painting a bad picture in the community.”

Wright did not want to comment on Erves’ allegations.

Erves, the Gators defensive coordinator, said the committee of three blacks, three whites and one Asian was too narrowly chosen and Wright hand-picked the committee.

“The (committee) had gripes against me. I didn’t have a chance,” Erves said. ” … They didn’t have the right people (on the committee). Those people were hand-picked by Lum Wright and that is not right. He has a vendetta against us and has always given us a bad name.”

A source close to the selection process said a VHS administrator picked four of the committee members, a district administrator picked one, Wright picked one and one was recommended after several players’ parents turned down the offer.

Furthermore, a committee member who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Erves rated 10th out of 11 prospective candidates and that every prospective coach was asked the same questions. He went on to say each coach was rated independently by the seven members, then the scores were tallied.

The top three candidates were offered second interviews, then on Friday, VHS offensive coordinator Alonzo Stevens was interviewed for a second time.

On Wednesday, Daryl Jones of Jim Hill, son of former Alcorn State and VHS coach Cardell Jones, was interviewed as well.

At the root of Erves’ complaints is a notion that the VHS coaching staff is filled with animosity, especially between him and offensive coordinator Alonzo Stevens.

“That’s just not true,” Erves said. “There is no problem between us. Lum and the community are against us. Nobody asked us anything.

“They’ve painted a picture that we do not get along, and that is simply not true. We have always been friends, always.”

Stevens was one of four prospective coaches granted a second interview for the head coaching job. A decision is expected before April 19.

Erves said he and Stevens came to an understanding that if either got the job, the other would follow.

“A lot of people talk about all the animosity, but it’s simply not true,” Erves said. “It’s all blown out of proportion. Stevens should be the coach and I feel like I will support him 100 percent.”

If Stevens gets passed over?

“That’s something I’ll cross when I get there,” Erves said.

James Knox retired in March after leading the Gators for the past 12 years. Soon after, a search committee was formed to select the next coach.

Erves found out of the decision Friday through the grapevine. Wright said earlier that none of the eight non-finalists were notified of the committee’s decision.

Assistant Bobby Huell, another VHS assistant passed over for the job, said the decision needs to be made soon so the team can start working.

“We have to wait and see for whoever comes in and continue to work like we always have,” said Huell, the offensive backs coach a season ago. “We have to keep going.”

Both Huell and Jackie Williamson agreed that keeping the coaching job in house is the best option.

“Offensive-wise, I’d really feel better if Coach Stevens gets it,” Williamson said.

“It would help to keep together what we’ve been running the last two years.”

Vicksburg saw a dramatic increase in offensive production since the wing offense was implemented.

“He and I have put our lives, almost, over the last two years putting in this offense,” Williamson said.

“We’ve built a unity with this offense and would hate for someone to come in and change it.”

The Gators under Knox had just one losing season in his 12 years and made the playoffs every year except two. In 20 years, however, Vicksburg has beaten archrival Warren Central only once, something that “will change,” Erves said.

With the season less than five months away and a Red Carpet Bowl showdown with a Louisiana Class 5A power looming, Erves said work needs to be done soon.

“We are a program on the rise,” Erves said. “Vicksburg is in a cycle now where the talent level has picked up.

“We have the whole offense and half the defense returning, so we should be that much better this year than last.”

The Gators finished 7-4, but lost a key division game to Greenville, which kept them from the playoffs.