A conversation several years ago with his then-elementary school age daughter was the catalyst that brought Darrell Cox back to the basketball court.
The former college basketball star disagreed with the way his daughter was being taught and decided he could do a better job. After working in construction for nearly 20 years after playing his last game for Lincoln Memorial University, Cox went back to school to earn his teacher’s certification.
“I knew if I was going to make a difference in kids’ lives, I couldn’t do it from this ladder,” said Cox, a LaFollette native, who was inducted into the LMU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.
“That’s part of what is wrong with kids today, we’ve got teachers who don’t care.”
Since leaving LMU for the second time, he has settled into a new role as educator. He recently took a job as boy’s head coach at Houston County, a Class A school in Middle Tennessee. Before that, Cox served as an assistant coach on a Fulton team that won 30 games and the 2009 Class AA state championship and spent one season in Clarksville as head boy’s basketball coach at Class AAA Northwest.
He began his second career at Soldiers Memorial Middle School in Tazewell, where he coached football and basketball.
So far, Cox is enjoying his new gig at Houston County. He teaches wellness at the school of 450 students located southwest of Clarksville.
“It’s a pretty good opportunity,” said Cox.
“The girl’s basketball coach was my assistant coach at Northwest.”
The tough part has been trying to fill the void left by retired coach L.C. Baggett, a fixture on Houston County’s sideline for over 30 years.
“”It’s not hard getting along with the kids,” said Cox.
“It’s a generational thing more than anything. Some of their parents played for him. It’s been more traumatic for them than it has me.”
Cox has already begun to make the Houston County program his own by putting into play some of the methods and practices that he feels will make the Irish successful.
“We do film study and scouting reports. They’ve never done anything like that before. But it’s all good.”
The 2007-08 season at Clarksville Northwest turned out to be a valuable learning experience for Cox. The Vikings got off to a 7-4 start before Cox had to kick his best player off the team. Northwest won only one more game the rest of the season and finished 8-15 overall.
Though the Irish lost their season opener 60-42 to Clarksburg, Cox expects better days ahead at Houston County.
“Most people picked us to finish in the top three (in District 10-A),” he said.
“I’m going to raise the bar a little.
“But you know what? It’s still five on five, the goal is 10 feet high and the ball still bounces. If you want to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.”