April 24, 2014 8:16:24 AM
Scott Walters - email@example.com
Aberdeen High School boys basketball coach Cornelius Gilleylen is still in shock.
After leading the tradition-rich Bulldogs to a 24-8 record and the semifinal round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A North State playoffs, Gilleylen learned this week he won't be back as the team's coach for a second season.
"I don't understand what happened," Gilleylen said. "I have talked to about 50 people today and have told them the same thing. I don't know. It is a shock to all of us. I can't put my name on the situation because I don't understand it. It was a shock and still is a shock."
It appears as many as seven faculty members also were told this week they would not return to the school. The Mississippi Board of Education took over the Aberdeen School District two years ago. The district remains under conservatorship.
At the time of the state take-over, some of the school's minor sports were eliminated. This past year, half of those sports were brought back. While Aberdeen has been a regular contender in the football playoffs, boys basketball has been the school's calling card in athletics. Roy Hazzle coached the Aberdeen boys for 26 seasons and led them to the Mississippi Coliseum six times. Gilleylen coached for two seasons under Hazzle before being promoted after Hazzle's retirement last spring.
Aberdeen didn't lose a Class 3A, Region 4 game this season and won 14 of its final 16 games.
"It was different this season," Aberdeen senior center Cameron Belle said back in December. "Coach G was like one of our best friends. Then he was like the head coach. I think we did a real good job with the transition. This is still a basketball community, and we know how important it is for us to play well."
Losing seven seniors, Aberdeen will face a rebuilding season with its third coach in as many seasons. Gilleylen said he was given no reason for the change in coaches, downplaying that it had anything to do with teacher workload or certification in certain subjects.
"I don't know why they made this decision," said Gilleylen, who expects to coach in the state's prep ranks against next season. "I don't have anything to tell the media. We went 24-8 and had a good year. I guess 24 wins wasn't good enough here. At the next job, I will have to aim for 30."
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter