June 18, 2009
Latorrence Bivens is an easy-going guy.
But donâ€™t confuse Bivensâ€™ quiet demeanor with an inability to set high expectations and an unwillingness to push his players to reach those goals.
Bivens hopes that mix of qualities can be part of what will help him transition to coaching girls basketball.
On Tuesday, the Aberdeen school board approved the hiring of Bivens as the new girls basketball coach at Aberdeen High School.
Bivens, who celebrated his 26th birthday Tuesday, served as an assistant coach to Aberdeen High boys basketball coach Roy Hazzle last season in his first year at the school.
Bivens, who went to Provine High, graduated from Mississippi State in December 2006 with a degree in secondary education. He teaches math at Aberdeen High.
â€œI love the game of basketball,â€ Bivens said. â€œI want to make sure the program is heading in the right direction.â€
Bivens said he plans to make sure girls basketball players who start in the parks and recreation leagues and come up through the junior high have a structure so the high school team can continue to be successful.
Bivens said his first job as a head coach will be a challenge, but he said he has a strong support staff at Aberdeen High that will help him and his players continue to build on the programâ€™s recent success.
â€œWork ethic, academics, and team unity are going to be the keys (for the 2009-10 season),â€ Bivens said. â€œIf those things are together we will have a great machine heading in the right direction. I feel like the only thing that can stop us is ourselves.â€
Aberdeen lost to Raymond 62-48 earlier this year in the semifinals of the Class 3A Mississippi High School Activities Association Cellular South State Basketball Championships at Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
Rising senior Jameika Hoskins had a team-high 19 points and is expected to lead the Lady Bulldogs in the 2009-10 season.
Aberdeen made 4 of 20 free throws, while Raymond, which went on to win the state title, made 13 of 16.
Cloyd Garth, who coached the girls basketball team for the past part of the 2008-09 season, said after the state title game that Aberdeen was the â€œbetter team.â€
Raymond defeated Aberdeen in the first round of the state tournament the previous two seasons.
Garth said last month that he hadnâ€™t submitted an application to be girls basketball coach at Aberdeen High but that he would like to remain in that position.
Aberdeen Superintendent of Schools Chester Leigh said Wednesday he never talked with Garth about the job and that he didnâ€™t remember seeing an application for the opening from Garth.
Leigh, who assumed his duties June 1, said he talked several times with Bivens before interviewing him Tuesday. He said Bivens came highly recommended by parents and coaches.
â€œI know much more about him as an educator,â€ Leigh said. â€œI always have known him to be a good role model. The kids look up to him, the parents respect him, and he has a lot of potential. We think he will do good things with the girls basketball program.â€
Bivens said the players worked hard in voluntary workouts while the school went through the process of naming a coach. He said he hopes to build on the work he did with the girls at the end of last season. In that time, he said he learned the girls were unselfish and know how to play the game. He said his goal is to make sure they play to the best of their abilities.
â€œBefore I step on the court I let the boys and girls know my expectation level,â€ Bivens said. â€œIf they donâ€™t meet it, will have a nice talk with them and get them back in the game. I am an easy-going coach, but I am serious and dedicated about what I am doing. I put a lot of time in and I expect a lot out of it.â€
Garth, who works as an alderman, stepped in for James Trimble early in the 2008-09 season and led Aberdeen to a 28-8 finish. He didnâ€™t return a telephone call seeking comment.
Former Aberdeen Superintendent Dr. George Gilreath, who resigned last month, said in January that Trimble remained Aberdeen Highâ€™s girls basketball coach and was still employed as a health and driverâ€™s education teacher.
But Aberdeen High Athletic Director Hansel Gunn said last month that Trimble no longer was the girls basketball coach and that he wasnâ€™t a teacher at the school.
Gunn, who also worked this past school year as an assistant principal at the high school, said he interviewed Bivens for a teaching position when he was superintendent of schools in Okolona. He said Bivens interviewed for a position teaching math and was hired by the Aberdeen school district.
â€œI was very impressed with his teaching ability and had a chance to watch him coach this year (as an assistant boys basketball coach for Roy Hazzle at Aberdeen High),â€ Gunn said.
Bivens was a first-year assistant coach on the Aberdeen High football team last season. Coach Chris Duncan said Bivens wonâ€™t be a member of coaching staff this season.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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