May 16, 2017 11:52:54 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The possibility of a return home to Durant has had Torrey Dale smiling for most of the last month.
On Tuesday, with his jobs as teacher and coach of the Durant High School girls and boys basketball teams approved by the school district's board of trustees, Dale could finally talk about his decision to leave West Lowndes High after one year and return to his alma mater.
"I am going home," Dale said. "My mom and dad are going to get to see me coach on a regular basis. I am not the assistant. I am the man. It is my show. I get to show what I can do. I feel like I am 5 years old because I am so excited about it."
Dale, who also has coached at H.W. Byers and Charleston, said he will teach social studies or physical education at Durant. Dale won a boys basketball state title at the school as a senior in 2005.
Dale took over from Danny Crawford, who left to coach at Noxubee County High, right before the start of the 2016-17 school year and led West Lowndes to the quarterfinals of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A State tournament. West Lowndes lost to reigning Class 1A State champion Ashland 71-67 at Jackson State's Williams Assembly Center to finish 18-14.
Dale's decision means the West Lowndes boys again will look for stability. The school's boys and girls basketball programs have had a number of coaches in the past eight years.
Dale said he will be at Durant High on Thursday to meet his new players. He said he will be back at West Lowndes High on Friday to finish his stay in Lowndes County.
"My prayer is the entire team will try to stay together and finish what we started this year," Dale said. "We have a good nucleus of guards coming back.
"I don't want the people in West Lowndes to think I didn't want to be here. I need them to understand I am not from here, I am homesick, and I am passionate about Durant. West Lowndes allowed me to go home. ... I appreciate everything the people in the community did for me and the kids."
Dale thanked West Lowndes High Principal Stefanie Jones for giving him an opportunity to work in Lowndes County. He also praised the support from the community and the booster club, but he said he couldn't pass up a chance to return home so he could be closer to his mother and father and to help build Durant back into a state power. Dale's father, Willie, is the principal at Durant High.
"I just want to get us back to the old-school brand of basketball that Durant was playing when I was there," Dale said. "I take charge of Durant basketball a little more personal than I do West Lowndes. Lynn Wright (the superintendent of the Lowndes County School District) and Stefanie Jones brought me in here and took care of me. The community did everything they could and supported me and was at all of the games. They supported the kids. I never have felt this kind of reception, but I really feel like I maximized my potential in one year at West Lowndes. When you have that opportunity to go home where it all started, you don't pass that up."
Dale said things played out at West Lowndes that allowed him to have a chance to return home. On April 10, Dale was non-renewed as a social studies teacher and head boys basketball coach. He said he wasn't given a reason why his contract wasn't renewed and that he couldn't wait to see if he would be given an opportunity to come back to West Lowndes High as a teacher or as a coach.
That's part of the reason Dale was so excited when he found out the job for girls and boys basketball coach at Durant High was going to come open. Dale's goal is restore the luster to a program and a community that means a lot to him.
"I was the mailman for West Lowndes this year," Dale said. "I came. I delivered. I worked my shift, and now I am going home."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.