September 22, 2009 9:14:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
Roy Hazzle is synonymous with Aberdeen High School.
He graduated from the school in 1971 and returned there six years later to work as a teacher.
Hazzle has impacted the lives of thousands of teenagers in his more than 30 years at Aberdeen High.
Some of Hazzle''s best work has come on the basketball court.
Ever since 1986 when he first received the opportunity to coach the school''s boys basketball team, Hazzle has been a positive role model and motivator to one of the state''s most successful programs.
The Aberdeen School District recently decided to honor Hazzle''s contribution to the community by naming the high school''s gym, nicknamed the "Aberdome," the "Roy Hazzle Gym."
"You dream about a lot of things, but some thing never in your wildest dreams would you imagine would come true," Hazzle said. "I have been associated with the school for more than 40 years (as a student, teacher, and coach). It is a great honor."
Hazzle has heard talk in the community that a decision might be made to name the school''s gym in his honor, but he didn''t know when it would happen.
Last Monday, Hazzle just so happened to be at the Aberdeen School Board meeting to talk about renovations and safety upgrades to the gym.
Aberdeen School District Superintendent Chester Leigh said Hazzle was asked to step outside while the members discussed the issue of naming the gym after Hazzle.
Leigh said former Aberdeen School District Superintendent Lavon Fluker-Reed wrote in May to the board recommending that the gym be named for Hazzle. He said the motion was tabled until last week, when the school board members thought it was a good time to re-visit the issue.
The meeting ended late Monday night, so Leigh called Hazzle on Tuesday to inform him of the school board''s decision.
"Coach Hazzle has been with our district for more than 30 years as a teacher and as a coach," Leigh said. "He has been an outstanding role model for the young people in our community. He has really earned it. I am really happy and proud for him."
In February, Hazzle was one of 21 high school coaches from across the country to be named 2008 National Coaches of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association.
Hazzle was the Mississippi High School Activities Association boys basketball Coach of the Year for 2008-09.
In 2008, Hazzle guided the Aberdeen High boys basketball team to a 79-50 victory against Columbia in the Class 3A state title game in Jackson. The state title was the program''s first in its fourth trip under Hazzle to the state Final Four.
Hazzle had a distinguished athletic career, particularly in baseball, at Itawamba Junior College, now known as Itawamba Community College, and at Mississippi Valley State. He said he never received any consideration from Mississippi State or the University of Mississippi, but he didn''t let that stop him.
Hazzle left Mississippi to go to Oregon, where he pursued a professional baseball career. But he was called back home to help with family matters, and he soon found himself working as a physical education teacher.
His first coaching work came as a seventh- and eighth-grade football and boys basketball coach. He eventually "moved up" to the ninth-grade boys basketball coach, and earned his first opportunity to coach at the high school level on an interim basis in 1986.
Hazzle was named Aberdeen High''s boys basketball coach for the 1987-88 season. He also has coached baseball, football, and track and field, and has worked at the school as assistant athletic director and as athletic director.
Hazzle guided the Aberdeen High boys basketball program to its first district title in 1989 and to North Half State titles in 1997, ''98, 2007, and ''08.
He also coached the baseball team to the state tournament in 1979-80.
Hazzle, 56, has won 464 games as boys basketball coach at Aberdeen High. He is grateful to all of the people who have helped him in his professional career. He also thanks his family and all of the students and athletes who have played for him throughout the years.
"I have had a great coaching career," Hazzle said. "I am coming to the end of my coaching career, and I have so many memories from working at a great school and with a great program. When I leave I want it to be an even greater school and an even greater program."
Hazzle said he isn''t sure when the gym will be dedicated in his name. He said he always has tried to do what is best for young people and top do whatever he could to help them succeed. He hopes the lessons he has taught continue to motivate and to inspire people in the community.
"I am very proud to have had the opportunity to go away from home and to come back and give back," Hazzle said. "I want all young people to stand on their own two feet and to be responsible and respectful citizens. I have always tried to make them better than they are, to teach them to give back, to do their best, and to take advantage of all of the things that God has blessed them with and to use those things to the best of their abilities."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.