It’s hard to believe that Bob Monroe has never been a head football coach.
“Bob was one of the most focused people,” said longtime high school and junior college coach James “Bootie” Sloan. “His motor was running all the time. I can’t picture him any other way.”
Sloan gave Monroe his first coaching job right out of college, in 1972 at Clinton High School, and later joined him at Tupelo High in the ’90s. Monroe’s high school coach, Bob Tyler, had put in a word to Sloan about hiring his former Senatobia High player at Clinton.
“He’s a keen, sharp individual who is competitive,” Sloan went on about his former assistant, who also happened to join him for a season at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. “I tell you, he’s a competitor. He’ll smile, laugh and talk with you, but when it was time to hit the practice field, he was all business with you. He’s still the same now as he was 40 years ago.”
Chris Coleman coached alongside Monroe at Tupelo High School in the 1980s.
“He studies the game,” Coleman said of his coaching colleague. “He’s intense. He knows the game as good as anybody. I learned a lot from him, watching him coach. I was young at the time. He taught me a lot about how to coach.
“Shoot, everything would be covered to the ‘T.’ He’s pretty much a perfectionist, and a great guy, too.”
“He was a brilliant coach,” said Corinth High head coach Jimmy Mitchell, who also coached with Monroe at Tupelo High. “He’s really in depth on fundamentals with his teaching instruction.
“He had a knack for making them (his players) want to play their hearts out for him. He had a lot of qualities a successful coach is going to have. He’s really detail-oriented.”
So why didn’t he become a head coach? After all, he had several opportunities to become one.
“To be honest with you,” Monroe, now 59, said last week, “I was completely satisfied and content with the position I was in. I taught advanced placement courses at Tupelo High, and that took up most of my time.
“I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to do. We had good coaches (at Tupelo High), and I couldn’t think if anything could be better at that time.”
Monroe was part of former Tupelo High head coach Ricky Black’s staff for 11 years, and coached with Sloan for 10 years altogether at three different places. The Wave won the 1992 MHSAA Class 5A state title.
“They’re members of the Mississippi Coaches Hall of Fame,” Monroe said of his former bosses. “I’m very fortunate and blessed to work on the staffs of those men.”
An untimely break
Unfortunately for the longtime assistant, his first wife, Marilyn, was diagnosed with cancer in 1992.
“I continued to coach for four more years,” Monroe said. “Her condition got worse, so I stopped coaching (in 1996). My wife passed away in 1998.
“I had three opportunities to start back coaching,” said Monroe, who has since remarried and has been living in New Albany since 2002, “but I didn’t have the heart to do it.”
Monroe, who has coached defensive backs for most of his career, has returned to the sidelines after a 13-year hiatus. The former Clinton High, Tupelo High and Copiah-Lincoln Community College assistant is currently coaching the defensive backs at New Albany High School.
“We had senior suppers every Thursday night, and he came and spoke at one of our senior suppers last fall,” New Albany head coach Ron Price said about what initiated Monroe coming on board at New Albany.
When Bulldogs defensive coordinator, Scott Duley, left to become the head coach of the Union County team, Price needed to fill a spot on the defensive side of the ball.
“We had a position open and I just called him,” Price said, “and he was willing to accept the opportunity to get back into coaching.”
Said Monroe, “At one point in my life, there was nothing in my life but coaching football. I hear people being all big on retirement, but what else are you going to do? You can’t really live on your retirement.”
A reunion of sorts
Within this past offseason, two other longtime coaches have made a return to coaching in Northeast Mississippi. Sloan became the offensive coordinator at Saltillo High School and David Bradberry accepted the job as Tupelo High’s head coach.
“I don’t think we ever get it back out of our bodies,” said Mitchell, 60, who has coached every year since 1972. “When you’re out, you may move onto something else, but something is still there that makes you want to pay attention it. … It’s in your blood; you can’t get it out.”
Mitchell’s 2010 Corinth High club will travel to New Albany on Friday night for a non-division Week 3 tilt. Coleman, Corinth’s athletic director, will also be coaching the Warriors, along with Ryan Summers, a former Tupelo High player when Mitchell, Coleman and Monroe were coaching the Golden Wave.
“I had an opportunity to coach with those guys for 11 years,” Monroe said. “They’ve been just as successful at Corinth as they’ve been in Tupelo. They didn’t miss a beat.”
The Wave’s 5-3 defensive coaching duties back then were as follows: Mitchell handled the defensive front and middle linebackers; Coleman directed the defensive ends and outside linebackers; while Monroe led the defensive backs.
Not to mention, Pete McMurray, another assistant on that same Tupelo High staff, has also been coaching at Corinth.
So, on Friday night at Kitchens’ Field, it will be a Golden Wave reunion of sorts.
“As a matter of fact, the last couple of years he has come and watched us play a couple of times,” Coleman said of Monroe. “We would be playing at different places, and we’d see Coach Monroe in the stands. We would say hi to one another.”
On Friday night, the Corinth coaches and Monroe will once again be on the same field, but on different sidelines.
“I think it’s just something we enjoyed when we were in our younger years,” Monroe said of the coaching experience. “I’m very thankful and appreciative for the people in New Albany willing to take a chance with me.”
Being a part of the Daily Journal’s third-ranked team, has also given Monroe a sense of pride.
“Hopefully, I’ll provide a contribution to help these guys,” he said. “These guys are hard workers and anxious to learn. They (the New Albany coaches) have the program headed in the right direction. It was nice enough of them to let me get on the train.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal