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Stevens selected to head up VHS

[04/20/01] Alonzo Stevens admitted that it “hurt a little” when he wasn’t considered first to be Vicksburg High’s next football coach.

But being approved for what he has called his “dream job” Thursday night did a lot to take away the sting.

“There aren’t any hard feelings … I’m going to make the most of my chance,” said Stevens, one of 30 applicants for the job that is being vacated by James Knox, who is retiring after 12 years as the Gators’ head coach. “This is something I’ve prepared for all of my life.”

After 12 candidates picked by a seven-man search committee were interviewed, Stevens, 48, was one of five finalists. Three others were offered the job. One withdrew and the other two couldn’t agree to terms for the position, which pays between $47,000 and $53,000.

At the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, the assistant coaches were asked to attend and they met with Stevens, the board and administrators behind closed doors for about 20 minutes. The meeting didn’t end until 11 p.m.

“I’m confident that (Stevens) can keep the program on track and build on it,” said Superintendent Donald Oakes, who had the “interim” lifted from his title at the same meeting. “I’ve known him for a long time. He’s very capable and we will support him. We’re pleased, and we hope the community will be, too.”

Oakes said he couldn’t discuss what was talked about in executive session, but he did say that all of the coaches were asked to attend because “we wanted them to hear it straight from us.” He said the coaches also needed to be told that there were no hard feelings since Stevens and another long-time assistant, Robert Erves, both applied for the job.

“We told them that we were all in this together,” Oakes said.

Erves, the Gators’ defensive coordinator, said that he “supports Coach Stevens 100 percent.”

“I’m happy he got it,” Erves said before the meeting. “We’ve always worked well together. We’re raring to go … now that the politics are out of the way, we can go on with football.”

Spring practice starts Monday.

“I’ve been on both sides of the ball, so I think that will be an asset to the program, and I know we have an excellent staff in place,” Stevens said.

Vicksburg Warren athletics director Lum Wright Jr. said “no comment” when asked if he was happy the process was over.

“I’m just glad that we have a head football coach in place in time for spring football,” VHS Principal Don Taylor said.

Stevens was offensive coordinator at VHS the last two years and he was defensive coordinator during his first stint at the school, 1975-89. He was offensive line coach 1990-97 at Alcorn State, where he was a standout linebacker and guard.

He was also head track coach at Alcorn and he heads up the boys track team at VHS. He earned a master’s degree in biology and athletic administration.

“I owe everything to this district.,” said Stevens, who played at now-defunct Temple High in Vicksburg. “This is an opportunity for me to give back.”

He credited his wife, Linda, with helping him get through the selection process.

“She’s my backbone … ,” he said.

Erves and Knox have criticized Wright for having “a vendetta” against the program Wright was an assistant at for one year.

At the meeting, John Ferguson, whose son plays on the school’s golf team, accused Wright of being biased against VHS. He had at least five supporters with him and was granted a meeting with the board in executive session on May 17.

“Lum has never done anything but support this program,” Taylor said. “When he talks about it, he says we.'”