Gators look south for new boys soccer coach

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 18, 2003

[6/18/03]During more than a decade as a soccer player, coach and fan on the Gulf Coast, Casey Smith was unaware Vicksburg High even had a soccer program.

Starting next fall, however, Smith will not only know where Vicksburg High is, he’ll be trying to put the school on the map of the soccer world.

Smith has been hired as the VHS boys soccer coach and was approved by the Vicksburg Warren School District Board of Trustees on Monday. He replaces Drew Kennedy, who coached at VHS for one season before leaving to continue his education.

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The 31-year-old Smith last coached at Gautier in 2001, and brings a track record of success to VHS.

He led Gautier to a 12-3 record and a division championship in 2001-02, and helped turn around a South Jones program that had only three wins in three years before he became the head coach.

“I feel like I have enough background to create success in any area, whether it’s girls or boys, 7-year-olds or 17-year-olds if you’re a good soccer coach, you’re a good soccer coach,” said Smith, who will also coach the VHS cross country team and plans to recruit some of his soccer players for that sport to use it as a conditioning tool.

He added that he expects the Gators to improve on last season’s record.

“I actually think that’s going to be easy, because we’re going to be better than we were last year,” Smith said. “Five-and-15 is unacceptable. We’re going to be better than that.”

The hire of Smith was the second this spring of a soccer coach in Warren County. Also on Monday, the board approved the hiring of former VHS star Kristin Chapman as the girls coach at Warren Central.

Vicksburg Warren athletic director Lum Wright Jr. said the hires should point both programs in the right direction.

The VHS boys were 5-15 last season, but made the playoffs with a surprising win over Warren Central in the division. WC’s girls missed the playoffs.

“I felt like (Smith) was the final piece of the soccer program puzzle that we’ve been trying to get established for a while,” Wright said. “Finding people that are educated and also experienced in soccer is hard. We’ve been very fortunate.”

The district is searching for two basketball coaches, however. Warren Central is looking for a boys varsity and girls ninth-grade coach.

Smith has been involved with soccer for most of his life. He played for Pascagoula High School in the late 1980s, where one of his teams lost to WC in the playoffs in 1989.

That was the only time his high school team played against a school from this area.

“Warren Central knocked us out of the playoffs when I was a senior in high school in 1989, and that was all I knew,” of the area, Smith said. “I didn’t even know there was a Vicksburg High School here.

“I hate to say that, but I thought Warren Central was the only high school in the area, because we’ve never played Vicksburg High School in any sport.”

That lackluster Gators’ history has Smith enthused about the challenge of the upcoming season.

“I don’t ever go to a program and not think about making it to the state championship,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re 0-20, when I start practice I’m already preparing for us to be in that state championship final.”