McCullough resigns at Bertie

Published 12:39 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2016

WINDSOR – For the second year in a row, Bertie High School is looking for a girl’s basketball coach.

Joan Sharpe McCullough submitted her resignation to athletic director Randy Whitaker on Thursday. McCullough would not say what her future plans are other than that she will remain in education, and may possibly coach again elsewhere.

Joan McCullough has resigned as girl’s basketball coach at Bertie High. McCullough was in her second tenure as Lady Falcons coach and this past season posted a record of 25-2. | Dynamic Photo / William Anthony

Joan McCullough has resigned as girl’s basketball coach at Bertie High. McCullough was in her second tenure as Lady Falcons coach and this past season posted a record of 25-2. | Dynamic Photo / William Anthony

McCullough comes off a successful second turn at Bertie – she previously coached the Lady Falcons in 2011-12 where she compiled a 7-10 record and made the 2A NCHSAA playoffs.

This past season Bertie went undefeated in conference play – both regular-season and conference – and won the Roanoke-Chowan NEWS-HERALD Holiday Classic for the 11th time.

“I have an option to coach where I’m going,” McCullough said in a telephone interview. “I can’t say just yet, but it’s somewhere outside the (immediate Roanoke-Chowan) area. “While the offer is on the table, I need to first get myself acclimated to my new duties; do my main job and do it well, and perhaps exercise the other option sometime later.

McCullough began her career as a teacher and coach in the Hertford County Public Schools in 1997, returning to the school district where she starred as a player after playing college basketball and earning a bachelor’s degree from Elizabeth City State University and where she coached for 10 years.

In 2003, McCullough was hired away from her position as a biology teacher at HCHS when Northampton County-East High School offered her a job as Assistant Principal. She remained there before landing at Bertie in administration in 2010.

McCullough succeeded Alice Lyons twice in her tenures as head coach with the Lady Falcons. Lyons coached Bertie from 1996 until her retirement in 2010, but returned to the sidelines after just a one year’s absence as a coach only. Lyons was relieved of her coaching duties after the 2014-15 season when Bertie County Schools enforced its policy of having only active teachers and administrators as coaches.

McCullough also said family concerns played a part in her decision.

“I have a teen-aged daughter now who needs my time and attention,” she said. “Coaching really doesn’t lend itself to that, especially when she doesn’t attend the same school district that I work in.”

McCullough’s 2015-16 team opened the season with five straight non-conference wins before a setback against a visiting Australian National team composed primarily of college-level players. The Lady Falcons then steam-rolled through the Northeastern Coastal Conference, winning all 12 regular season games and then two more in conference tournament play. They amassed 20 straight wins before they succumbed to Northside (Jacksonville) High at home in the NCHSAA 2A sectional final.

“My biggest want for this team is to have someone who is going to give their all to coaching and keep pushing them mentally, socially, and physically; and being responsible to them – and for them – and showing them that life isn’t just about them.”

Bertie will also have a dozen returning lettermen, having lost just two seniors, non-starters Zariah Harris and Jakiyah Askew.

“Sometimes coaches get pigeon-holed,” she continued. “Some people know me only as a coach and that’s really only part of my duties. I still have dreams and aspirations outside of coaching basketball.”

McCullough says she’s grateful to the school district for giving her the opportunity – twice.

“The team is really the biggest part to me that I hate about leaving,” she said with emotion welling in her voice, “but I just feel it’s so fruitful for me to make this move right now.”

McCullough says even though it was a short stay, she won’t dwell on the superlatives. There were other accomplishments she feels the team made that she is prouder of.

“I’d like to think I changed the culture,” she said. “Andre (assistant coach Cherry) and I drilled the fundamentals from day-one. I enjoyed seeing my girls go from being argumentive sometimes in the face of adversity to being classy and knowing how to keep themselves composed. They were used to winning. I just wanted to show them how to win with humility. They’ve got a great foundation to work with; if they put forth the effort there’s a lot of potential here.”