March 16, 2010 9:00:00 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Greg Carter doesn''t rant and rave on the sidelines.
The Starkville High School boys basketball coach prefers to stay in his seat and watch as the Yellow Jackets execute the game plan.
But Carter by no means is tied to his seat.
In fact, the veteran coach is quick to get out of his seat and to correct something when he sees a mistake.
Last month in a 72-44 victory against Columbus in the Class 6A, Division 2, District 4 championship game at Tupelo High, Carter quietly handled one of those moments.
Starkville was having its way with Columbus and senior Rashad Perkins was enjoying it a little too much fun. After consecutive miscues and a loss of focus by Perkins, Carter got up from his seat, stood in front of the team''s bench, and waved Perkins over. He didn''t raise his voice, but he made sure Perkins knew he didn''t like what had just transpired.
As quickly as the senior had relaxed, he was refocused and ready to go again.
His job done, Carter sat back down and watched as many of his younger players had a chance to play in the district-clinching victory.
The victory was just one of many that helped earn Starkville High hardware this season. The Yellow Jackets defeated Meridian 57-51 to win the Class 6A championship, and on Saturday beat Jackson Callaway 61-45 to win the Mississippi High School Activities Association Grand Slam Championship at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
The win helped Starkville close its season at 31-2.
For its accomplishments, the Starkville High boys basketball team is The Commercial Dispatch''s Prep Player of the Week.
Carter''s experienced hand helped guide the Yellow Jackets to the elusive title, the school''s first in 49 years. The Class 6A championship helped erase the frustration of Carter''s last state final in 2003, when the Yellow Jackets lost in overtime to Vicksburg.
"I think (winning a state title) means a whole lot. I think it means a lot to the 1961 team. I think the ''61 team had been forgotten a little bit, and I think us winning it brings attention back to them.
"It is a big honor. It is something that is going to be with the guys forever."
Carter helped the Yellow Jackets realize their potential by giving them the freedom to showcase their skills. He said the Yellow Jackets work hard in practice, which is where he can be a little bit more vocal with his players, so they are ready at game time.
"In practice, I am walking and running up and down the court and all into it. In games, I am not going to be like that," Carter said. "They understand that, and they know I am not going to embarrass them in a game unless they do something to embarrass me, themselves, or the program. When it is game time, it is time for them to go out and do what they can do, and they know what they have to do once they step out on the court and they get it done."
The strategy paid off this season as Perkins, a Southern Miss signee, and classmate Edward Townsel provided sound leadership and were consistent performers throughout the season.
"You would be surprised at this team''s will to win," Carter said. "All of them are willing to put themselves back a little bit in order to win. I think that was the biggest key to this season, guys willing to put them selves back a little bit to put winning first."
Other coaches might have tried to corral the talents of Townsel, a lightning-quick point guard. But Carter opted to let Townsel''s creativity shine through, which often resulted in rim-shaking dunks by Perkins off alley-oop passes.
Townsel said he made his share of mistakes this season, and Carter was there to remind him.
"He will let you know if you take a bad shot, but he lets us play up to our ability, and that has really helped us this year," Townsel said.
Perkins agreed, and credited Carter for helping to lead the way to titles that were a long time coming for Starkville High.
"You know what to expect from him," Perkins said. "He is a level-headed coach. He lets us play to our potential. He tries not to hold us back and lets us have fun."
Perkins smiled when asked about the talk he had with Carter in the district title game. He said Carter''s ability to work with him helped him emerge as the leader he became this season.
"There is a certain way to approach everybody, and he comes at us as a coach but in a respectful way," Perkins said. "Him being that way goes a long way with us as far as us listening. If you talk to a person wrong it is going to go in one ear and out the other, but he knows how to talk to us and get us right."
The right way also helped Starkville High leave a legacy that will be remembered for years to come. Those fans can thank Carter for finding the right balance between high-octane fun and disciplined basketball.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.