March 1, 2014 6:38:43 PM
Michael Bradley is back doing what he loves to do.
An added perk is he will be able to put his master's degree to use at the same time.
On Thursday night, the Pontotoc County School Board approved Bradley as the new head football coach at South Pontotoc High School. Bradley accepted the job as coach and as assistant athletic director that night.
"I have been very impressed by the lengths the principal, Mr. West, and the superintendent, Mr. Roy, have went to try and make this a smooth transition," Bradley said. "I am looking forward to getting up there and meeting the people and meeting the kids and getting to work."
The news of Bradley's return to coaching came on the same day Mississippi Valley State announced Friday the hiring of former New Hope High football coach Shawn Gregory as its offensive coordinator. Gregory served as an assistant coach on Bradley's staff in 2012. He guided the Trojans to a 4-7 season in 2013. Earlier this year, Gregory, a New Hope High graduate, learned he wouldn't be retained as coach for this season. Bob Reeves is serving as interim coach as New Hope completes a search for its new football coach.
As for Bradley, who teaches American government and economics at New Hope High, it is a welcome return to the football field. Last January, he stepped down as coach at New Hope after seven seasons. Bradley met with the school board Wednesday night. He said he hopes to meet his new players early this week. He said he will be at South Pontotoc High to run spring football practice.
"It is an opportunity to do something I have wanted to do since I got my master's degree in administration, which is a dual role as an administrator and as a coach," Bradley said. "I got my master's degree in 2001 and I was able to use it for four years as an athletic director down on the coast (at Pearl River Central). That is what I went to school to do. I get to do something I love on top of that, which is coach. It is the best of both worlds. I have been very blessed to have this opportunity.
Bradley was head football coach at Mooreville High (six years) and Pearl River Central (three years) prior to coming to Lowndes County. He went 41-40 in seven years at New Hope. He took over a program immersed in a seven-year run of losing seasons. He led the team to a 1-9 finish in 2006 but helped the program turn the corner in 2007, when it went 6-4. The Trojans had their best seasons under Bradley in the next three seasons. New Hope went 8-5 in 2008 (in Class 4A) before it went 11-2 and lost to West Point in the Class 5A North State final. The Trojans went 8-5 in 2010 before slipping to 4-7 and 3-8 in his last two seasons. New Hope failed to qualify for the playoffs in his last two seasons.
Bradley also spent three years as an assistant football coach at Itawamba Agricultural High and one year as an as assistant at Mooreville High. He played football at Mooreville and served one year in the Army in Iraq, School. He said he has had his administrative degree for 12 years and that he is eager to be able to put it to use again. He said his daughter, Farris, who is a member of the New Hope High girls soccer team, and his wife, Dawn, will stay in Lowndes County while he commutes 80-plus miles to Pontotoc County.
Bradley inherits a program that hasn't had a winning season since 2003. South Pontotoc, which is in Class 3A, Region 4 in the Mississippi High School Activities Association, went 3-8 last season. It last qualified for the playoffs in 2010, when it lost to Belmont 43-0.
According to Maxpreps.com, South Pontotoc has had at least four head football coaches in the last 10 seasons, including Mark Bray, who is the head football coach at Aberdeen. South Pontotoc's most recent run of success came in 2004-07, when the team went 5-5 each of those three seasons.
Bradley knows he is inheriting a program that is similar to the ones he took over. Competing in a region with Louisville, Aberdeen, Nettleton, Winona, and Kemper County won't make things any easier in the immediate future, but Bradley was impressed by the school's athletic facilities and the commitment the community has to the football program. His goal is to change the culture in the same way he did at New Hope and at his other schools.
"They have outstanding facilities," Bradley said. "They have the best locker room I have had the privilege of working at. They have a brand new weight facility with an indoor practice area. I was just blown away when I saw their facilities. The school and the community have obviously put a lot of time and commitment in and they have backed it up with their money. A lot of the things that are there were bought by the boosters. It shows the people are ready to have a winning team."
Bradley hasn't competed against South Pontotoc since he coached at Mooreville. He said he expects to inherit "tough, hard-nosed kids" and to enter an "outstanding" academic school. He said he will follow a similar blueprint to previous stops in that he will try to instill confidence and discipline in his players. He said he won't worry about what others do and will focus on helping his team improve so it can compete at a higher level.
"You have to think big and you have to believe," Bradley said. "You can't fool yourself. You have to believe it. The mind is a very powerful thing. If you believe you can do something, you can. If you let others dictate what you can and can't do, the chances of being successful are limited.
"It is all about creating a climate that is conducive to winning and getting everybody on the same page. I know all of these are cliches, but they are accurate cliches. I just want to do the best I can do. All you ever should ask out of somebody is the best they got. That is what we're going to ask from our kids, to give the best they have."
Bradley said he had a "great experience" at New Hope and met and worked with a lot of great people. He hopes to build similar relationships at South Pontotoc High. He will do that with a no-nonsense approach that hasn't allowed kids to accept labels or to be limited by a lack of size or speed or Southeastern Conference recruits.
"I'd like to think they are going to get a guy who is passionate, that is intense, that is disciplined, and will instill discipline and work ethic and will have high expectations and will push their kids to achieve high expectations," Bradley said. "I believe if you aim for the stars and hit an eagle it is a lot better than aiming for an eagle and hitting the ground. That is what we're going to do. We're going to aim for the stars."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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