April 20, 2017 10:20:40 AM
Scott Walters - email@example.com
Brad Cox called a lot of timeouts in his seven seasons as West Point High School's boys basketball coach.
Now, Cox is calling a timeout on his coaching career. Beginning his fourth year in administration, Cox takes over this fall as the principal at West Clay Elementary.
"This is bittersweet on so many levels," Cox said. "I love coaching. It is what I do. The last nine years at West Point (two as assistant and seven as head coach) have been really incredible for me and for my family. We have been competitive and enjoyed making some history."
Before Cox's arrival, West Point last won a region championship in boys basketball in 1989. Under Cox, the Green Wave won two regular-season region championships and two region tournament championships.
West Point played to near-capacity crowds on most nights thanks to a high-octane, up-tempo attack.
"There was a lot that went into our style of play," Cox said. "We tried to force the issue and tried to make the opponent play at a frantic pace. The kids really enjoyed the system. Even though we played up-tempo, there was a lot of attention to defense. I don't think the average person really realized that.
"It wasn't all about putting up shots. Being able to play within a system and getting the easy turnovers helped fuel the offense. It was always important for us to be able to establish our style of play early in a game."
Under Cox, West Point made the playoffs in five of seven seasons. Cox was just as proud of the success off the court.
"Being able to help these young men learn life skills is what coaching is all about," Cox said. "When you receive a 'Happy Father's Day' text, it makes you feel really good. When you have a former player call you and say he is thinking about switching his major (in college) and he wants your advice on what he needs to do, that is special.
"When you see the former players come back and they have their own kids, or when you receive a graduation invite or wedding invite, it makes your day. Having those events happen to you far outweigh any success you have on the court. It means a lot when you mean that much to them. For some of these players, I am the only coach they ever had."
Cox will miss those bonding sessions with his players. He was a coach who obsessed over practice. He will miss the summer-league games. He will miss teaching the fundamentals and building chemistry. He won't miss the long bus rides and eagerly anticipates more time with his family.
"Practice is fun," Cox said. "There is always an opportunity to get better. When you put all of that hard work in, it is fun to see the finished product. The goal is get to players to work together and to achieve great things together. A lot of players don't know their full potential."
While Cox will miss bonding with his players, he also will miss the opportunity to match wits with coaching rivals turned friends.
"Man, the games with (New Hope coach) Drew (McBrayer) and (Starkville coach) Greg (Carter), I will miss those the most," Cox said. "When you are in this profession long enough, you build some really great friendships. Heck, Greg beat me all the time but it was always fun. It was great matching up your team with someone else, especially a friend."
In 2014, Cox was named The Dispatch's Large Schools Coach of Year after guiding West Point to a 26-6 record. West Point fell to eventual state champion Callaway in the semifinals of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A North State playoffs.
This season, the play of leading scorer Austin Crowley was one of few bright spots. However, West Point upset Saltillo in the region tournament and made it back to the playoffs.
The West Point High girls also made the postseason. Coach Dashmond Daniel led the Lady Wave to the Mississippi Coliseum and the Class 5A State championship game. Cox and Daniel worked closely together during their time at the school. Cox said he will miss that relationship, too.
Cox served as an assistant principal the last three years. Moving full-time into administration won't dampen his love for coaching.
"I plan to go to a lot of practices," Cox said. "I want to watch the Mississippi State men practice more, the women practice more. I am going to go to some of Greg Carter's practices. I want to continue to learn as much about as coaching as I can. If I get a chance to do it again, I want to be even better. This is a chance to really grow in the profession. I look forward to that opportunity."
Meanwhile, a talented junior high team will move up and wait on a new coach at West Point. Cox said the program needs continued stability, like he provided for the last nine seasons.
"Several really good coaches have expressed an interest in the opening," Cox said. "That means a lot to me. I want somebody really good to take care of my boys."
Scott Walters is a sports writer for The Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter