April 14, 2018 7:27:38 PM
Kris Pickle has had plenty of opportunities as a teacher and as a coach.
A chance to spend more time with his family and with his kids was too much to pass up. That's why Pickle decided last week to resign as New Hope High School football coach.
Pickle said his new job, which he declined to mention, will allow him to be more accessible to his family and could provide a little more money down the road.
"When that opportunity came it kind of took me by surprise a little bit," Pickle said. "When I talked to my wife a little bit and people I trusted a little bit it begin to make more sense."
Pickle said he was "kind of at a crossroads" in the business after 13 years and he had to decide if he wanted to continue. He said his new job will allow him to remain in the area but that he could go somewhere else in the future. Pickle said he wanted to let New Hope High Principal Matt Smith and the community know as quickly as possible because his decision was going to affect so many people.
"I have a 2-year-old boy and 10-year-old daughter and I felt like for the longest time I was spending more time with the football team than my own kids," Pickle said. "I don't know how to do anything other than all in. To me, that is kind of a problem. I wanted to make sure I corrected that to spend more time to go to ballgames, to coach T-Ball, to do things in the past I have missed out on."
Still, Pickle acknowledged the decision was difficult because he loves his players and that he has treated them like they are his. He said he is proud of his players for persevering through all of the hardships and tragedies throughout the last four years. Pickle said he has seen a lot of young men grow up and mature, but that his final consideration had to be to do what was best for his family.
"I think the Good Lord puts you in places for a reason," said Pickle, who will be at school until the end of the school year. "I feel like I was strong enough to endure some of the things we went through to help the kids deal with some of the things we have dealt with. I wouldn't trade the last four years for anything. I think it has made me a stronger person and a better person. I think I have learned as much from the kids as they have from me."
Pickle replaced Shawn Gregory as coach in 2014. The former Morton High coach went 24-23 in four seasons at the school. New Hope went 10-3 in his first season in 2014 and lost to Pearl in the second round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 5A playoffs. The Trojans missed the Class 5A postseason the next two seasons before moving down to Class 4A for the 2017 season following reclassification. New Hope lost to Pontotoc 6-3 in the first round of the playoffs.
Pickle led Morton High to a 6-5 record and a trip to the first round of the MHSAA Class 3A playoffs, where it lost to Southeast Lauderdale in the first round. Morton went 5-0 in Region 6 (Velma Jackson, Prentiss, St. Andrews Episcopal, McLaurin, and Collins) to win the title after only winning three games in 2012.
Prior to taking his first job as a head football coach, Pickle spent three seasons as offensive coordinator at Northeast Jones High in Laurel, where he worked for head coach Keith Braddock. He also worked as offensive coordinator at Aberdeen High under former coach Chris Duncan.
Pickle also spent two years as wide receivers/defensive backs coach at Nettleton. He graduated from Hatley High in 1996 and went on to play football (wide receiver) for four years at Mississippi College. He credits coaches Dana Holgorsen, who was offensive coordinator at Mississippi College for two years and is now the head coach at West Virginia, and Brad Griffin for teaching him the basis of his offensive philosophy.
Pickle feels he is leaving the New Hope High football program in a good position for his successor. He said he made so many friends in a community that has provided incredible support.
"We beat Louisville, Columbus, and West Point and hopefully the kids' mind-set has changed so they believe we can compete at this level," Pickle said. "The next coach is going to come in here with great facilities and some of the best equipment you can buy. There have been a lot of upgrades in the course of four years. I hope the new coach will inherit a team that is going to work hard. We had a great offseason, and we have a great seventh- and eighth-grade group coming up that has a chance to be really good.
"I would like to thank everybody in the community for supporting me and my kids and my wife during the last four years. It is a good group of people. I made a lot of close friends and have found a church home. I want to thank all of the people who have helped us along the way. There is a bunch of them. ... That is what makes the community great. There are so many willing to pitch in and help."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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