Out Here in Left Field

Published 5:26 pm Thursday, June 30, 2011

The retirement of a longtime successful coach can send a program into turmoil.

No matter how good a program is, making the adjustment to a new leader can be difficult. It’s happened many times with our local schools.

It is my firm belief, however, that it will not happen to the women’s basketball program at Bertie High School. I think the program has all of the assets it needs to move forward despite losing Alice Lyons.

Coach Lyons did an outstanding job during her tenure at Bertie. She won a lot of games, many championships and a ton of accolades. Her tenure is among the best in terms of winning and success.

Last season, she made it clear she would retire at season’s end and not return to the hardwood at Bertie. Whether or not she will surface elsewhere at a later date is still to be seen.

That leaves the program that has been under her care without their longtime coach and mentor. It means a new coach and, perhaps, a different style of basketball for the Lady Falcons.

Bertie, however, is fortunate to have an immensely talented assistant coaching staff and the opportunity to hire a quality coach from among existing staff. That’s important at a time when many school districts, including Bertie County Schools, are laying off teachers.

There are a variety of options available to the administration of Bertie High School including two ladies who have had success in the head coaching ranks in basketball.

If the new principal at Bertie – whoever he or she may be – were to choose Joan McCullough or Jackie Copeland to take the reins of the program either of them would do well.

Both Copeland and McCullough have been head coaches at the high school level and either of them would do a great job making sure the success at Bertie continues.

The best choice for the overall athletic program would be to name McCullough to the spot since she has served as an assistant coach for the past two seasons. She is more familiar with the current system and players.

She is a good teacher and a good coach and would continue to build on the program.

In addition, it would make sure that Copeland continues in her roles as Head Softball Coach and Head Tennis Coach, both of which she has been very successful in. It would be difficult to ask her to coach for all three seasons and it would be detrimental to the overall athletic program if she gave up her current assignments.

Having said that, Copeland was a standout basketball player in high school and at Barton College and knows the game. She’s also a heck of a coach no matter what sport. BHS Football Coach Greg Watford has said more than once Copeland could coach boys or girls in any sport because she is a natural leader and coach.

Whatever decision the new leader of Bertie High School makes, he or she has the option of hiring a quality coach for a good program without having to bring someone in to do it. That’s a great position to be in.

Thadd White is a Sports Editor for Roanoke-Chowan Publications and can be reached via email at thadd.white@r-cnews.com or by telephone at 332-7211.