Former Hickory Flat coach leads DeSoto schools

HERNANDO – Milton Kuykendall has never been ashamed of his coaching background.
As a matter of fact, he directs the state’s largest public school district and its 30,000-plus students, teachers and administrators with skills he developed tutoring five players on a basketball court.
“Most people who coach are pretty good organizers,” said Kuykendall, 62, who is in his seventh year as superintendent of DeSoto County Schools. “Coaches know how to deal with parents, how to deal with students, how to deal with the public.
“A good coach has got to be able to sell his kids on what he’s doing. These kids have to believe in you. I think principals and superintendents have to have that ability.”
Kuykendall, recently named the state’s superintendent of the year, will be honored for his 20 years in coaching this week when he is inducted into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame.
The induction ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at the Hilton Hotel in Jackson.
“I’m honored to be inducted into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame,” said Kuykendall, a native of Union County’s Mt. Zion community. “I grew up playing basketball. I’ve always loved basketball. I never had any doubt I was going to be a coach.”
His boys’ teams compiled a 449-127 record, won four North state titles and three state championships during his head coaching tenure at Hickory Flat and Horn Lake. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Nettleton following graduation from Delta State.
Kuykendall won his three state championships at Hickory Flat in 1983, ’85 and ’86 and lost in the finals in ’84.
“I’ll always be grateful to Hickory Flat for giving me my first head coaching job,” he said. “I have so many wonderful memories. They love basketball and they love winning.”
Kuykendall, whose twin brother, Malcolm, is a 2000 Hall of Fame inductee and winner of eight state championships, credits a lot of people for his success as a coach, starting with his family.
“My dad (Ira) taught me more about life than anybody,” he said. “My mother (Christine) loved me unconditionally. My brother, Malcolm, and I are each other’s biggest fans.”
Malcolm Kuykendall, who is superintendent of schools in Tishomingo County, is thrilled to see his brother join him in the state’s coaching shrine.
“I think he’s one of the greatest coaches in the state,” Malcolm said. “His teams always seemed to get better as the season went on. You could beat him early in the year, but you couldn’t beat him late.”
Crediting their coaches
The brothers also credit their high school coach, Curtis Greenhill, and numerous other coaches for their success.
“There are not a whole lot of coaches we didn’t learn something from,” Malcolm said.
“I really had a lot of people help me get to where I am,” Milton added.
Kuykendall, who became a principal during his tenure at Hickory Flat, said the only time he misses coaching these days is when the state tournament rolls around.
“I don’t miss it enough to go back,” he said, then laughed. “If you coach and coach right, there’s a lot of work involved.
“I enjoyed my years in coaching. I was fortunate to have a lot of good players come my way.”
Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or gene.phelps@djournal.com.

Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal