By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Norris Ashley seriously considered retiring after 41 years of coaching high school basketball, 39 of those for Ingomar Attendance Center.
Problem is, the state’s all-time winningest basketball coach didn’t know how he would handle life outside a gym.
“The main thing I realized was that I didn’t hunt, fish, play golf or go to Tunica,” said Ashley, who has a career record of 1,664-831 coaching boys and girls. “I had no vices to fall back on.
“I still pick up a coaching magazine and see something I’d like to do with a team. I still enjoy coaching.”
That’s one of the reasons Ashley, 62, decided to return to the hardwood for the 2010-11 season. Another reason was the fact he no longer has any teaching duties.
“All I’m going to do is coach basketball,” he said. “This was a tough year in the teaching department for me. I love to teach, but I had a difficult group.
“My basketball group was great, one of the best groups I’ve had. I had no problems at all. I enjoy coaching kids and watching them get better. This year, my workload will be considerably less.”
Ashley said his “frustration” in the classroom was one of the reasons he considered retirement. He was suspended for one game last season for “using harsh language” while scolding a student.
There were also some family-related health issues that figured into Ashley’s thinking.
“A lot of things off the court affected my attitude,” he said.
Ashley’s 2009-10 Falcons, led by 6-foot-7 post player Zach Carnell, finished the season with a 30-7 record and won the Class 1A state championship. The state title was Ashley’s fifth in boys and his ninth overall, including four with the Lady Falcons.
However, Ingomar must replace six players from last season’s team, including Carnell and guards Clay Kidd and Matt Purvis.
“It’s going to be brand new,” Ashley said. “We’ve got some younger talent coming up. They’ve got possibilities.”
In the last two months, the state’s all-time winningest baseball coach, Mooreville’s Rex Berryman, and state’s all-time winningest football coach, Booneville’s Jim Drewry, retired.
“I didn’t think all of us needed to go in one year. Somebody needed to hold onto the rope,” Ashley said, then laughed.