By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
FULTON – Grant Pate has proven to be a man and basketball coach of obvious faith.
On Tuesday, Itawamba Community College showed its faith by introducing Pate as its men’s basketball coach.
“We are very, very happy to introduce Grant Pate,” Itawamba athletic director Carrie Ball-Williamson said. “We’re so excited to have him join the ICC family.”
Pate comes to Fulton campus after a successful four years as head coach at Tupelo High School.
He compiled a 94-29 record with the Golden Wave, and is fresh off leading the team to the Class 6A championship game, losing in overtime to Jim Hill.
Tupelo had not qualified for the state tournament previously since 1999.
“The college ranks have always been at my heart,” said Pate, who has various levels of experience college coaching, including seven seasons at Ole Miss. “I enjoy meeting the parents, meeting the young men.
“You want to be able to stretch yourself, and I’m excited about the opportunity.”
Getting to work
The new coach plans to hit the ground running, contacting the current freshmen players today. He then plans to be in Alabama on Thursday and at the Tennessee state championships Friday.
“It’s going to be crazy the next few days,” said Pate, who said he already has a list of 30 players in Itawamba’s old recruiting district as part of his focus between now and the April 8 signing date. “We want to meet with the current players, have the opportunity to watch film, and work them out and see what their strengths are.”
The Indians, with a roster that had seven freshmen including D. J. Gardner from Okolona and Deontaye Ewing from Tupelo, went 9-15 and qualified for the MACJC state tournament,
Previous coach Marty Cooper announced his retirement prior to the end of the season after 14 years at ICC.
While the Tupelo Public School District is on spring break this week, athletic director Danny Porter expressed his appreciation for Pate effort at THS. Porter indicated district officials had not discussed a process for filling Pate’s position.