January 4, 2013 10:47:54 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Bradley isn't sure of everything that will happen in the future.
But Bradley knows he won't take his next step as football coach at New Hope High School.
The veteran coach announced this week he will step down after seven seasons as the football coach. Bradley informed his coaches of the news Wednesday and told his players Thursday.
"It has been a difficult decision," Bradley said. "Anytime you're looking at making a career change, possibly, or definitely making a change in what you have been doing and something you love, there has been a lot of thought that went into it. I am very comfortable with what we have been able to accomplish at New Hope. I am very comfortable with how we are leaving the program. I would have liked to have had more wins this year, but we have a good foundation established, and we have managed to have a really good run of success."
Bradley, who was head football coach at Mooreville High (six years) and Pearl River Central (three years) prior to coming to Lowndes County, went 41-40 in seven years at New Hope. He took over a program immersed in a seven-year run of losing seasons. He led the team to a 1-9 finish in 2006 but helped the program turn the corner in 2007, when it went 6-4. The Trojans had their best seasons under Bradley in the next three seasons. New Hope went 8-5 in 2008 (in Class 4A) before it went 11-2 and lost to West Point in the Class 5A North State final. The Trojans went 8-5 in 2010 before slipping to 4-7 and 3-8 the past two seasons. New Hope failed to qualify for the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
"When I came to New Hope, people said you couldn't win here," said Bradley, who also spent three years as an assistant football coach at Itawamba Agricultural High and one year as an as assistant at Mooreville High. "I have made a career out of doing that. When I was a player, I was too small and too slow and my arm was too weak. I always kind of took folks telling me what I couldn't do as a challenge. That kind of went over into my coaching. I made a career of going to places where you can't win there. New Hope is one of those places, and we have proven you can win here and it can be done. ... When everybody is focused on the same thing and you're shooting for the same goal, amazing things can happen. We were fortunate enough to have some amazing things happen here in seven years."
Bradley, who played at Mooreville and served one year in the Army in Iraq, teaches American government and economics at New Hope High School. He said he has had his administrative degree for 12 years and will look for a job as an administrator. He said his love for coaching kept him involved in taking care of other peoples' children. His daughter, Farris, who is in the ninth grade and is a member of the school's girls soccer team, and he would like to spend more time with his wife, Dawn, and his family.
But Bradley didn't rule out the possibility of coaching football again. He said it would have to be an "extremely good" situation for him to remain a coach.
"I am at peace with it," Bradley said. "I am going to do whatever comes my way. If it is an administrative position, that will be what the Lord wants me to do. If it isn't, the Lord is going to show me what it is."
Bradley thanked his assistant coaches, players, administration, and all of the boosters, fans, and parents who supported the program. He also thanked his wife and his daughter for all they have done to help him and the football program.
Matt Keith, who played for Bradley when he was a seventh-grader at Mooreville High, said Bradley had success building relationships with players. He said Bradley helped create a "family atmosphere" in the program that contributed to its maturation. He said that attitude carried over to how Bradley related to his coaches.
"He always has been a coach who allowed you to do your job," said Keith, who was defensive coordinator this past season. "He never micromanaged. He allowed me to coach the defensive line the best way I saw fit and gave me tutelage when I needed and when he felt like I needed it. As defensive coordinator, he let me do what I felt was best for the defense. Not a lot of people give you that freedom.
"I am very appreciative to him. He has given me the life I have. Without the job opportunity, I wouldn't have the wife I have now or the baby we're expecting. I owe a lot to him, as do a lot of players at all of the different stops in his coaching career."
Longtime assistant coach Bob Reeves, a 1999 graduate of New Hope High, said Bradley worked hard to change the mentality at the school. He said Bradley tried to impress the importance of winning at what you do all of the time to his players. He said that contributed to a "blue-collar" work ethic the program had in its best years. In that time, he said the Trojans might not have had the most talented teams, but he said the players got the most out of their ability, if not more.
"There is no separation between trying to be successful on the field and in the classroom and being successful in the community," said Reeves, who was an assistant football coach the year before Bradley took over. "It seems that really was for several years what we hung our hat on. Our kids knew and they were expected to go out and compete at everything. I think he really helped bring that mind-set to our program for several years."
Reeves, who also coaches the junior high football team and teaches psychology and sociology, complimented Bradley on his ability to get people to see the "big picture" and to get them involved in a number of capacities to help the program.
"I hope folks will remember we gave our heart and soul and we put everything we had into building something special here, that we were all in from the first day to the last day, and that we threw all of our chips out there and we gave everything we had," Bradley said. "We had a vision, we communicated the vision, we sold the vision, some young men bought into the vision, and we were able to have some really good times here."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.