Coleman leaving Vicksburg High for Quitman|[6/16/05]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2005

Mike Coleman has some very unorthodox timing.

When he left Raymond High to assume the head girls coaching position at Vicksburg High in 2000, the team he left won back-to-back state championships.

Now he is leaving arguably the best team he has ever had at Vicksburg to coach the Class 4A Quitman Pantherettes.

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The veteran coach, who has spent time at Utica, Raymond and Vicksburg, accepted the job at Quitman on Tuesday and said the fact that he would only have to teach physical education, his college major, and the challenge of rebuilding a program lured him away from the Missy Gators.

“This is a big opportunity to finally teach what I majored in for the first time in 18 years,” Coleman said. “I went down there to interview and everything felt good about it. I couldn’t pass it up.”

Vicksburg High principal Charlie Tolliver said a search would begin soon to find another coach.

“It was a total surprise to me,” Tolliver said of Coleman’s announcement. “We sat down after last year and talked about where we were going this year.”

The Missy Gators, who failed to make it out of division for the fifth straight year last season, returns a seasoned, talented group of players. The Missy Gators return all five starters from last year’s 14-17 team, including all-county junior Rachel Jenkins and center Kristin Ellis.

“This is a very special group of kids,” Coleman said. “When we met after the season, I told them that, since we were going to be in the North again, that we were a top three team.

“I wish I could load them up on the bus and take them with me.”

The situation he will inherit at Quitman is not unlike what he faced when he came to Vicksburg.

The Pantherettes were a dreary 2-24 last season. Their average margin of defeat was 33 points, they lost three games by at least 50 points, five by at least 40 points and six by at least 30 points. Steve Hampton, Quitman’s boys coach, led the team after the girls coach the school hired took another job in Alabama.

“The record is really not there fault. They’ve had three coaches in three years and the coach last year quit right before the season,” Coleman said. “I’ve been told they have a couple that are over 6-feet tall and a good point guard. That is something to build around.”

When Coleman left Raymond, he inherited a Vicksburg team coming off a trip to the North State playoffs. Then-coach Chris Long left to become an assistant with Louisiana Tech and the team was gutted by graduation, including the loss of Catrina Frierson.

In his first season, Coleman won eight games and earned Vicksburg Post Coach of the Year honors, because winning eight seemed like an impossibilty early in the season.

In five seasons at Vicksburg, Coleman went 83-105. His career record is 318-224 over 17 years at three schools.

“He’s the right person at the right time,” said Quitman principal Charlie Parkerson, a former Warren Central assistant basketball coach. “It just kind of happened. Neither one of us was looking for the other.”

Tolliver said finding a new coach may be a challenge, but he is confident in getting someone to fill Coleman’s shoes.

“Things are pretty much set” at other schools, Tolliver said. “It may be a little difficult, but we’ll manage.”