As the year 2011 comes to a close, we brace ourselves, if you believe the Mayans and the hype, for 2012, more specifically Dec. 21, 2012, and the end of time.
But that’s a year away. Right now, I want to take a look back at the sports world in Laurel County in 2011.
The biggest story of the year, without a doubt, was the numerous coaching changes in the county, both at North and South Laurel High School. You would be hard-pressed to find another year (with the exception of 1992, when Laurel County High School was split and both new schools were born) to find so many new coaches in one school year.
For new coaches to be hired, there had to be openings created for several different reasons. Some coaches were fired, while others resigned for various reasons.
The firing of Roy Bowling at North Laurel High School tops the list. Bowling and his staff were relieved of their duties in May, after some players were suspended for an alcohol-related incident during the season. Bowling voiced his opinions on that very matter, something the school system didn’t take too kindly to. So Bowling and his assistants, which included Rex Fredericks, were gone.
This caused uproar among many in the county who respected Coach Bowling for his accomplishments, which included four state titles while head coach at Laurel County. He put Laurel County on the map as far as high school girls’ basketball was concerned.
So with Bowling and his staff gone, that meant North Laurel had to find a new coach, which it did in Eddie Mahan, who came from the University of the Cumberlands were he was an assistant coach under Melissa Irvin, who ironically played her high school ball for Bowling. Mahan is now assisted by Dean Gray, Doc Carpenter and Amber Neace.
A couple of days later over at South Laurel, the only boys’ coach the school ever knew, Steve Wright, decided to move on after 21 years at the helm of the Cardinals, which included the 2005 boys’ state title.
The Cards were just coming off their first losing season ever when Wright decided the time was right to move on, and that he did, as he became the new head coach at Southwestern Pulaski. Before you could catch your breath, North Laurel was searching for a new boys’ basketball coach when Jim Conway decided to step down to spend more time with his family.
So now both boys’ high school teams were searching for a new coach, and the first name that popped up was that of Brad Sizemore, who had just finished up his first season as head coach at Garrard County. It was also the first head coaching job for the former South Laurel graduate and assistant coach.
Everyone assumed that Sizemore was a lock for the South job, but the school took its time in deciding on a new coach. Meanwhile, North Laurel entered the fray and offered Sizemore the job, which he took, leaving his old school still searching for the right man.
They found that in Jeff Davis, who came from Simon Kenton where he was an assistant coach for five years. This would be his first head coaching job. South assistants Jesse Sizemore and Dennis Hammonds stayed on his staff.
Sizemore wasn’t as lucky at North, as only Billy Carson remained. Mike Collier went (along with his son, Isaiah) to Southwestern with Steve Wright, while Greg Parrett returned to Jackson County to become the new boys’ coach. Roscoe Denney, who coached along side Sizemore at South Laurel for many years, filled one of those assistant coaching spots.
Konnie Snyder remained the girls’ coach at South Laurel, but she lost long-time assistant Darin Reed, who resigned. Darrin Hacker and Roger Parker replaced him, while Jennifer Hamblin returned.
But those weren’t the only coaching vacancies in 2011. After guiding the North Laurel Lady Jaguars to five straight region softball titles, Shane Weaver resigned to become the new coach at Lexington Lafayette. It took until last Tuesday before the school found someone to replace Weaver in former star Becky Abner Osborne.
Speaking of Abner, her father, Bill, stepped down as head volleyball coach at North Laurel in June and was replaced by former player and assistant coach Ali Ray. The coaching carousal continued at North Laurel when boys’ soccer coach Abel Arellano was replaced by Mark Acampa, also in June.
Over at South Laurel, Bill Sergent became the new boys’ golf coach, and three games into the boys’ soccer season, Harmon Hodge stepped down to become the new assistant principal at the school, and was replaced by interim coach Randy Collins, who had just returned as his assistant coach.
Wow, my head hurts just recalling all the changes.
Yes, 2011 was certainly a memorable year for coaches in Laurel County. Let’s hope 2012 is a little more stable.
Have a Happy New Year, everyone.