July 30, 2013 2:08:15 AM
MACON -- Noxubee County High School basketball coach T.J. Billups made a life-changing decision for his family this month.
In the process, Billups had to leave his second family behind.
Billups has resigned after 11 seasons as head coach of the boys basketball program. In the past two season, Billups actually pulled double-duty and coached both the Noxubee boys and girls.
Billups and his wife Erica, who is a nurse, have moved to Dallas, Tex., where Erica Billups has accepted a new job.
"This was just a great opportunity for my family," Billups said. "Sometimes, you don't expect an opportunity. Then when a chance comes along. You have to think at it long and hard. This was simply the right thing to do for my family."
Erica Billups' sister lives in Dallas. Through this connection, Erica Billups met someone who owns a nursing agency. An opportunity for career advancement for Erica Billups led to the move.
"This is a unique opportunity and a great chance for her to better herself in her field," Billups said. "She will be making almost double the money she was making in Starkville. I was looking for something new. It was simply a situation that came up where we could better ourselves."
In 11 seasons with the Noxubee boys, Billups compiled a 260-138 record. This past season, the Tigers advanced to the Mississippi High School Activities Association's Class 4A North State semifinal round, falling two wins shy of the Mississippi Coliseum and the overall state tournament. The girls were 33-28 under his watch.
"Playing for Coach Billups was an oustanding experience," Noxubee County senior D.J. Robinson said. "He pushed us every day in practice and really didn't accept anything less than our best. When you were down, he was always there to pick you back up. I learned a lot about the game but also learned a lot about life. He always wanted our best."
Billups said he felt like his players were his second family.
"The hardest thing I have had to do was to hold that meeting and tell them I am leaving," Billups said. "We are like one big family around here. It really hurt to say good bye to them. We have had some great teams and I have coached some really great guys. They have grown a lot in the game of basketball and more importantly, they have grown as people. This was a wonderful opportunity and I am really appreciative of this opportunity and the support that we had around here. The hardest part was telling the players I would not be back."
Billups was a standout player at Jackson Lanier High School under his father Thomas Billups. Billups then played at Mississippi State University from 1996 to 2001 and was a two-time captain for the Bulldogs. The coaching career began almost immediately after his time in Starkville.
"I want to remain active in coaching," Billups said. "I am pursuing some options right now, even as we speak. If I am not coaching this fall, I certainly plan to find a way to stay active in the game of basketball. It has meant so much to me."
With the late summer timing of this move, Noxubee County school officials are expected to move quickly to have a replacement or replacements in place.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter