August 13, 2014 11:05:48 AM
Dallas Flippo intends to continue the Columbus High School baseball tradition Jeff Cook started.
Flippo doesn't have a secret plan for how he intends to accomplish that goal. He is going to do the only thing he knows how to do: Work hard.
"Our goal is going to be the hardest working team in the state," Flippo said. "If we can accomplish that, we're going to be a pretty good ballteam."
On Monday, the Columbus Municipal School Board unanimously approved the hiring of Flippo as Columbus High's interim baseball coach. He replaces Cook, who resigned in June to take a job as an assistant football coach at South Pontotoc High and a teacher at South Pontotoc Middle School.
"It is a great opportunity early in my coaching career," said Flippo, 28, who served as an assistant coach at Columbus High last season. "It worked out perfectly for me to get it. I am super excited about it."
Flippo said he had an "informal" interview with Columbus High Athletic Director Rusty Greene last month. He said he didn't speak with anyone else or interview with anyone else for the position, and heard rumors there were other candidates for the job, but he felt confident he would get the job in part because of the relationships he built with the Columbus High baseball players this past season. Flippo said he received a call from Greene shortly after their initial conversation in which he was offered the job.
Flippo taught World History at Columbus High last school year. He is in that same position for the 2014-15 school year. The only difference is he will be the man in charge of a baseball program that is coming off its school-record fourth-consecutive playoff appearance. In eight seasons at Columbus High, Cook went 116-98 and helped the program make history. This past season, Columbus defeated Olive Branch and Clinton in the Class 6A North State playoffs before losing to Tupelo and finishing 23-8 finish.
"The biggest thing I learned from coach Cook is you can't take a day off," Flippo said. "Every day there we would go from start to finish full speed. I also learned you have to have a plan and have to carry that plan out every day. Rain or shine you have to get something done, and Cook did not take a day off, and it showed. "
Flippo said he will work with the same energy and passion Cook had to maintain Columbus' success on the baseball field. He realizes the program lost a stellar senior class that included standouts like Trace Lee, Chris McCullough, and Hunter Mullis, but his work with the program's junior high players and the varsity team gives him plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future for the Falcons.
"We have some things to build on," Flippo said. "We're losing a core group -- one that comes along once every 10 or 15 years -- but we have some key starters returning and some returners with a lot of innings under their belts. Our young guys have gotten bigger, stronger, and faster. We had individual meetings last week and they all enjoyed the taste of success they had last year. They got a taste of how hard work can pay off, and we're going to get to work immediately."
Flippo is the third coach who served on Cook's staff this past season to become a head coach. Tyler Stroupe is the new coach at Jumpertown, while Jared Garrett is the new coach at Columbus Christian Academy in Steens.
Cook said he is proud of all three for their contributions to the Columbus High program. He believes Flippo, who was born and raised in Lowndes County and graduated from Caledonia High in 2004, is a great fit for the job.
"He is another guy who has been around baseball his whole life," Cook said. "He related to the kids really well. ... That is who I recommended when I left because he knew the kids' battles and the battles he is going to have to fight and which ones he is not going to fight. I think he will do a good job."
Flippo played baseball for one year at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba. He overcame a battle with bone cancer to attend Mississippi State and complete his degree in History. Originally diagnosed with cancer in August 2005, Flippo said he underwent treatment in Birmingham, Alabama, and was in remission, only to have a relapse. He said he had a stem cell transplant in June 2008 and has been cancer free ever since.
Flippo didn't want to talk a lot about his battle with cancer, or make a big deal about it. He acknowledged it gives him a unique set of lessons he can use to teach kids in his classroom and on the baseball field.
Cook saw Flippo use those lessons with the Falcons and feels they will help him strengthen relationships with the players.
"When things are not going a certain way in practice, as a younger coach I remember getting excited, but Dallas would sit back and be reserved and watch things and analyze what was going on," Cook said. "I could tell he had the patience to be a head coach. Once you have been around people, you can tell he has what it takes to be a head coach. Something you could see in him said he was going to be able to deal with people."
As someone who has grown up in Lowndes County, Flippo understands the ups and the downs the Columbus High baseball program has had. His goal is to plant roots at the school and to take everything he learned from Cook and continue to build a program everyone admires because its players and coaches work hard.
"I think they knew I was a guy who wanted to be here and wanted to plant my feet at Columbus High," Flippo said. "I grew up playing Little League at Propst Park. I think they saw somebody who wanted to be here and continue to build. Our program has progressed for the past five years, and I am the guy who is going to hang around and see that through."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.