May 7, 2010 9:50:00 AM
Tony Montgomery loves East Mississippi Community College.
The former New Hope High School baseball standout played the sport at EMCC, spent eight years as an assistant baseball coach to head coach Bill Baldner, and the past four seasons as the Lions'' head baseball coach.
Montgomery doesn''t know why, but he said there is something about Scooba he enjoys.
That''s why Montgomery was pained Tuesday to learn the EMCC Board of Trustees voted Monday night not to renew his contract as the school''s baseball coach.
"It has been a great run," said Montgomery, whose contract expires June 30. "There is nothing I would change about it. I love this place, and I always will. I will always recommend it to anyone who wants to come here."
Montgomery guided the Lions to a 23-25 finish this season. The record was a step up from the 11-37 mark the program posted in 2009, but it wasn''t enough to prevent a coaching change.
EMCC athletic director Mickey Stokes said an advisory committee made up of trustees recommended to the school''s Board of Trustees that a coaching change be made. He said the Board of Trustees then voted to approve the recommendation. He declined to reveal the tally of the vote.
Stokes said the decision was made based on the success of the program, its win-loss record, and the direction the program was going.
Montgomery guided EMCC to a 20-30 finish in 2007, his first season. In 2008, EMCC went 29-18, which was the program''s most victories since 1994. The success resulted in the school building a new baseball stadium. Unfortunately, the construction of the field prevented the Lions from having a fall season. Montgomery said the team didn''t get on the field until two weeks before the start of the 2009 season.
Montgomery and his staff worked hard to transform the program after that season. They made inroads in the district, signing many of the players from their protected list that they consider to be the best in the area. Montgomery also said the Lions made significant progress out of state, landing several top players he believed were going to keep the momentum going next season.
"It is real disappointing because our freshmen really did a good job (this season) and pretty much led our team," Montgomery said. "I would have been surprised if we didn''t win 35-plus games (in 2011) and had a chance to fight for the state title."
Montgomery said he would have liked to have had another year to work with his current players and blend in a talented recruiting class, but he said he holds no hard feelings against EMCC President Dr. Rick Young, Stokes, or any members of the Board of Trustees.
"Sometimes when one door is closed another door opens, and this might be the best thing that ever happened to me," Montgomery said.
The Columbus native, who as a senior helped lead the 1991 New Hope High team to a state championship, said he wasn''t sure where he would wind up. He said he would consider remaining in coaching, possibly at the high school level, and that he wouldn''t discount any opportunities.
"The most disappointing part is leaving, not that I am not going to be coaching," Montgomery said. "If I had to put on rubber gloves and some boots and I was the guy who had to dig out trash cans every week I probably would have stayed. Having to leave after being here so long is the toughest part."
Montgomery said he leaves knowing he ran the program with the best interest of the school as his primary concern. He said his goal always was to instill good character in his players and to teach them to respect the game.
This past academic year, the Lions earned the NJCAA''s All-Academic Team honor for having a composite grade-point average of better than 3.0 as a club, which included two NJCAA Distinguished Academic All-Americans and three other NJCAA Academic All-Americans.
"I feel the program is in better shape than when I got it," Montgomery said. "I had a lot of players in four years here go to the next level."
Stokes said EMCC assistant baseball coach Josh Snider wasn''t named interim head coach and that all questions about the program should be directed to him. He said the school will look in the state of Mississippi, regionally, and nationally to find the best baseball coach. He said the schools would like to complete the process in three to four weeks.
Stokes also thanked Montgomery for his service to the school.
"He has been a good employee and we wish him the best in whatever he does in the future," Stokes said. "We will help and support him in any way we can."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
Scooba Tech commented at 5/7/2010 9:13:00 PM:
Coach Hester heading to Scooba? What will the school board members wife think about that?
columbus commented at 5/8/2010 11:13:00 AM:
Sad that hester will have a chance to physically and mentally abuse kids again but some want to win at all cost.
I'm sure she has let it go and moved on with her life unlike hester. Calling the opposing team's coaches and wishing them good luck when they play New Hope is about as classless as you can get. Yeah, he really cared about those New Hope kids, didn't he.
What a Joke commented at 5/9/2010 2:30:00 PM:
In a word - classless.
What EXACTLY will HE be coaching assuming he gets that position? Hitters? Pitchers? Fielders? EMCC better bring on an arsenal of assistants! Throwing BP three times a week and yelling doesn't necessarily spell WINS at the Juco level. EMCC needs to ask around before making that mistake.
EMCC NEEDS TO GO AFTER KENT FARRIS!
LH commented at 5/9/2010 5:36:00 PM:
WAAA...how can Hester calling the opposing team's coach to wish him good luck be called classless...Chism did play for and was assistant coach for Hester. Did you personally hear him make the call or are you, like everyone else, just listening to rumors. Half of you who make such sorry judgements should get the nerve up to go and talk to him yourself, instead of making such blatant, inflamable statements.
columbus commented at 5/9/2010 6:39:00 PM:
The coach from Neshoba told us at the game that he called him and said good luck and I hope you beat New Hope. No rumor, came from the horses mouth. That's what Hester doesn't understand about most of the coaches in the state, they can't stand his tactics and that's just a classless example of how he really is in life.
He went on and on and on about how much he cared for the kids after they fired him. What a way to show the kids that you really did care about them by hoping they got beat.
BTW, you are the one dealing in rumors. No one said anything about Chris Chism and here you are bringing him into the conversation. Maybe it's you that needs to get their facts straight before calling other people blatant flamers.