Longtime VSO coach Gilliam takes over VHS soccer program

Published 3:17 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Maurice Gilliam has been a familiar figure in Mississippi’s soccer community for a long time, helping to mold several generations of players on youth and club teams.

Finally, he’s taking a stab at the high school level.

Gilliam was hired as the head coach of Vicksburg High’s girls’ and boys’ teams in August. It’s his first time as a head coach of a high school team, although he’s been an assistant at St. Aloysius for several years.

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Vicksburg had been looking for a girls’ head coach since Samantha Bailey stepped down in May, and the boys’ position has changed hands several times in recent years.

“I reached out to (Vicksburg High principal Dr. Latoya Sims Allen) and told her I was interested in the position. I wanted to help if I could, and she was excited about it.,” Gilliam said. “I’ve been coaching 25 years and doing it at every level. I feel like I’ve got a lot to offer the kids. My goal is to see if I can help kids get to the next level, maybe playing college and one day come back and give back like this.”

Gilliam is familiar with many of his players, and vice versa, through his work with the Vicksburg Soccer Organization and other club teams in and around Warren County. His daughter, Diari Gilliam, played at

Vicksburg High and was The Vicksburg Post’s girls Player of the Year in 2009. She went on to play at Delta State.
Gilliam is hoping the familiarity helps keep the girls’ team rolling. The Missy Gators won three consecutive region titles under Bailey, and reached the second round of the MHSAA Class 5A playoffs last season.

“We like to see them have different coaches throughout the stages of their soccer career, and if you coach high school you’ll see them come back around to you. They feel comfortable. They already know your style, they know you, and it absolutely makes a difference,” Gilliam said.

While the Missy Gators have been on an upward trajectory in recent years, the boys’ program has endured a series of ups and downs. It had a 10-6-1 record and reached the playoffs in the 2020-21 season, canceled the second half of the 2021-22 season when injuries left only nine players on the roster, and had a 1-9 record last season.

Gilliam said guiding two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum is a challenge. Assistant Shawn McDonald will play a key role on the boys’ side as they both try to resurrect the program.

“You know you need to focus on the weaker side which is the boys, because a lot of them haven’t played. But you want to be fair to both, which is why I’ll be involved with the girls and the boys so I can bring some experience to both sides,” Gilliam said. “The boys, hopefully in the next couple of years I can elevate them to another level and get them playing club soccer.”

A number of the girls’ players are already doing that, which has Gilliam hopeful he can pick up where Bailey left off. The Missy Gators are in a more difficult region this year, but Gilliam thinks there is enough talent that there won’t be much dropoff.

“They’re working on their own a lot, and they’ve got a great chance. Soccer is not a season, it’s all year around, and now you see eight to 10 of them playing additional soccer outside of Vicksburg High School. That’s the first step to be successful,” he said. “I think bringing my experience and their desire, I’m not making promises, but we should be able to move through the playoffs.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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