JELLICO—After three years as head coach of the Lady Blue Devil basketball team, Nancy Douglas was released from the position on Monday morning.
Following a slow season, in which Jellico finished with a 3-25 mark, Douglas was told she would not be coaching during the 2013-14 campaign.
For Athletic Director Danny Oakes, it was a hard decision to make.
“It’s just a tough call,” Oakes said on Tuesday. “Me and Nancy, I’ve known her for years. I appreciate everything she’s done. Sometimes, we can just go in a different direction and hope it’ll turn out for the best. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
According to Oakes, Douglas’ release wasn’t due to her record, but rather a lack of competition within District 4-A.
In the past three seasons, the team only won one district game, as they defeated Sunbright 57-39 on Feb. 7 of this year.
“We basically felt that within the district, we weren’t improving at a pace we thought we should. With the players that we had returning, we thought we would do a little better within our district. That just didn’t work out…one of the things that we were looking at, it wasn’t necessarily did she win enough games, it was, ‘Were we competing within the district?’ We lost a lot of games to teams in our district by margins of 15 points or more. We just wasn’t making progress within our district.”
During the 2012-13 campaign, the average loss margin was 18.75 points.
However, to the players, the administration is making the wrong call.
Some say they were told at the end of last season Douglas would remain as the head basketball coach, while others question the timing of the dismissal.
“They lied to us,” junior Courtney Charles said. “They personally told three of us that she still had the job, and she wasn’t going to be fired. She was still going to be our coach this year. It hurts, because I know they won’t find anybody that cares as much as she does. Maybe we didn’t win a lot last year, so what. That was last year, not this year.”
According to Charles and Carla Beams, the summer camps have gone well for the Lady Blue Devils.
Through all of the camps, Jellico had only lost two of its games.
“I don't know if it was the right or wrong decision, but I do think if they were going to let her go, they should've told her at the end of last season,” senior Brittany Vaughn said. “Finding out right here when our season should be getting started wasn't fair to Nancy or us girls.”
“They’re not going to have a coach for us when we need one,” Charles continued. “We need to be in the gym right now doing stuff. That’s what our main concern is right now.”
According to Oakes, the timing of the decision might not have been the best, but he believed it needed to be done.
He also cited confidentiality in not disclosing full details of the situation to The Press.
“It was just a situation, to be honest with you, personally, I thought we needed a change. Did it go about the way it should? Probably not. That’s a valid question. Once they got that far, you hate for them to do that work and in the middle of July, make a change. I just can’t comment on why it happened there and why it took so long.”
However, with the season being a little over four months away, the players still believe the timing was wrong.
Oakes stated he was going to meet with the team yesterday, Wednesday, to talk with them about the issues of finding a new coach. He said the meeting would try to smooth tense emotions, while communicating how the process was going to continue.
“We’re going to encourage them to work out on their own until we get a coach in place,” Oakes said. “Hopefully, the kids will play when the new coach gets in place.”
With summer practices already underway, many of the players believe the decision will hurt participation for next season.
Beams, the team’s main post player this season, says she doesn’t know if she’ll play or not.
“I think it’s going to hurt our participation a lot,” Beams said. “I love basketball, but I don’t know. I talked to Nancy about it, and she said she would attend all of my games. I’ll probably still play, but it won’t be the same as any other year.”
Beams said Douglas was more than just a coach to the players.
In many aspects, she was more like family, as Vaughn and Natasha Taylor had been coached by Douglas since third grade.
Charles and Vaughn both agreed, as Vaughn recalled a story of Douglas bringing flowers to her grandfather’s funeral.
“Whenever I didn’t have enough to pay for my shoes, she would help me do fundraisers or anything I could, just to help me pay for them throughout the season,” Beams said. “I live so far down in Elk Valley, she would take me home or make special trips down this way. She would really go out of her way to help the people that needed help with basketball so they could play and be more involved in the school.”
According to Oakes, what the girls are saying is correct.
He said she’s one of the best people he’s ever known.
“Nancy Douglas is as good of a person as you could be around,” he said. “As an athletic director, one of the things that I never worried about was when Nancy was with the kids. I knew they were going to be taken care of.”
According to Beams, Charles and Vaughn, they all had the same interests in what characteristics the new coach should have.
The players were looking for a coach who treats them as more than players on the court—dedicated and experienced.
“We want somebody that cares, and who’s not there just for the politics,” Charles said. “Obviously, we want somebody that knows what they’re doing. Besides that, it doesn’t matter to me.”
Oakes had similar goals, as he stated the new principal will ultimately decide on the new coach.
He also said the job would be posted on the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association website and the Campbell County site.
As of press time on Wednesday morning, the job was not on the TSSAA site. However, it may be found on the Campbell County educations site at www.campbell.k12.tn.us/employment.htm.
“We’re looking for someone that’s going to be highly motivated and bring a lot of energy to the program with some new ideas,” Oakes said. “Obviously, we’re looking for someone that hopefully has some basketball experience. Not saying we’re looking for someone that played in college, but you know, that would help. Sometimes, that’s hard to come up with.”
Oakes stated that Douglas would still be a teacher at Jellico High School, and she would still coach the softball team in the spring.
However, it didn’t settle the emotions of the Lady Blue Devil basketball players.
“There's just not another Nancy,” Vaughn said. “It broke my heart when I found out that she wasn't going to be coaching. Nancy came to my house to tell the news personally, and we even shed a few tears while we were talking about it. Having her as my coach for so long, I've really come to love Nancy as a person, and there isn't a bad thing to say about her.”