April 9, 2014 11:49:00 AM
Stan Hughey still loves basketball.
The only difference next school year is Hughey will coach the sport at a different school.
After 20 years as the girls basketball coach at Oak Hill Academy in West Point, Hughey made it official Tuesday by becoming the new girls basketball coach at Heritage Academy in Columbus. A week ago, Hughey resigned from his coaching position at Oak Hill Academy. He will replace Chris Ball, who coached the girls basketball team for the past two seasons.
"I am excited about being here," said Hughey, who was at the school Tuesday and who won 453 games in 20 years at Oak Hill Academy. "I have seen the program over the years, I love the Golden Triangle area, and I am thankful for the opportunity to come over here and coach this bunch."
Hughey is the school's third coach in the past three seasons. Yolanda Moore was hired as girls basketball coach in May 2011. According to a statement released by the school, Moore resigned in December 2011 to concentrate on work to complete course work necessary to obtain a Ph.D. Yandell Harris, who at the time was the school's boys basketball coach, took over as the girls basketball coach. Ball, who moved in to coach the junior varsity girls basketball team, took over for the past two seasons. This past season, he led a team that featured seniors Mary Douglass Kerby, Kristen Phillips, Anna Kilarski, Sallie Gardner, and Shiloh Ellis. Heritage Academy was the No. 3 seed out of the North and lost to East Rankin Academy in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, Division II tournament.
Ball is still at the school as an assistant baseball coach, while Harris is now headmaster at Oak Hill Academy. Moore recently left her job as women's basketball coach at LSU-Eunice to become the new women's basketball coach at Southeastern Louisiana.
Hughey started his coaching career at Mathiston School, which later combined with Cumberland to form East Webster High School. He spent two years at the school working in a capacity he joked you could call "coaching" because he said he knew so little about coaching. He said mentors like Ronnie Aldy, who he met at his next stop at Kirk Academy, helped teach him some things he has incorporated into his style of coaching. He also credits coaches like Mike Jones (Mississippi College) and Billy Wells (Winona schools) for being influences on him.
"I had some great years at Oak Hill," said Hughey, who also worked as track and field and tennis coach as well as athletic director at the school. "The bonds and relationships you build with kids is something you cherish. The thing I will miss most is all of the kids that would come back, especially at Christmas and Thanksgiving to see the team play and to see you. We have had a long, good run at Oak Hill and it is time for a change. It probably is time for them for a change. I will always cherish the times and relationships I have built because I have coached some really outstanding people and outstanding girls, and I am really thankful for that."
Hughey will assist Heritage Academy football coach Barrett Donahoe with athletic director duties. He said he also would teach a couple of classes at the school, most likely in the History department. While he admits it is difficult to make a change, he welcomes the "new opportunity" to build a program with the same ingredients -- hard work, enthusiasm, love for the game -- he and players used at Oak Hill Academy.
"I am anxious to get over here and get going," said Hughey, who will coach the varsity and junior high girls basketball teams at Heritage Academy. "We have a lot of hard work to do. As long as we work hard we will get it done. We are going to work on the fundamentals. I believe if you take care of the little things the big things will take care of themselves."
Starkville Academy girls basketball coach Glenn Schmidt has faced Hughey many times over the years. While her teams have been in Class AAA and Oak Hill Academy has been in Class AA the past few years, Schmidt said success has been a constant for the Lady Raiders, who have had only one losing season in Hughey's time leading the program.
"There is never a time you go against Stan Hughey that you know you're about to be in one of the hardest-fought games you have played," Schmidt said. "You can never put a finger on what a coach does that makes his or her players play so hard, but you know it is something they do at practice -- a level of intensity, a level of focus -- but you know when you take the floor he is going to be prepared, that he has watched you, that he will make good decisions about how to play you, and his players are going to play hard and never give up. I don't know what that is, but it is something inside that person that conveys that to young people.
"He is a proven winner. You can't argue that. He has a passion for this game, and, obviously, is a great leader of young players."
Schmidt, who led Starkville Academy to the Class AAA, Division II, Class AAA, and overall state titles in 2011-12 and 2012-13, said Hughey's teams always have been fundamentally solid, especially when it comes to ballhandling and shooting. She said she is excited to know he will remain in the Golden Triangle because she feels he will help make basketball better in this area.
Hughey said he hopes to do that by fostering the Lady Patriots' love for basketball. He said the lessons he learned from Aldy helped him move from thoughts about wanting to be a baseball coach to becoming more serious about basketball. He said the speed of the game and the need to make key decisions quickly pulled him in and has been motivating him for more than 20 years. He said his teams at Heritage Academy will try to play fast and will learn how to play good player-to-player defense. He also will stress hard work, heart, and passion because he believes student-athletes don't have to be talented to play hard.
"I am not surprised I have been coaching this long," Hughey said. "We have had some success, and anything you can be successful at is fun. I still have a great desire to coach. It keeps you young. It is a long season, but it keeps you young and feeling young. It is something I dearly love doing, and I am thankful I have been able to do it this long. Hopefully I will get to do it a good deal longer."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.