ABERDEEN – Roy Hazzle wants to be in good health and at peace with himself when he retires from coaching.
Winning a state championship in his 24th and final season as a high school varsity head basketball coach should guarantee that.
“It’s been a lot of years of up and down the highway, and long nights and long days working and sweeping floors and washing clothes,” said the longtime Aberdeen coach, who plans to retire after the 2010-11 hoops season. “Crying when death comes up on a team and all that.
“But the joy is seeing them win and come together as a team and believe in each other.”
Hazzle’s one state title came in 2008. The veteran coach, now 57, has a team that could very well contend for this season’s MHSAA Class 3A state championship.
“I was fortunate to get that one,” Hazzle said about winning the ’08 title. “The team that won it wasn’t my most talented, but what those young men did, they came together and the senior class became leaders. … Did I have my fights and did I have my arguments with them? Yes.
“One player – he doesn’t mind me saying it – Ricky Bell, we stayed at each other. He had to get his point across.”
Hazzle was willing to put up with confrontations with players that season because he understands that was all part of his team coming together and developing the chemistry and common understanding that they needed in order to succeed in the state tournament.
While Hazzle has had success with handling disagreements with boys basketball players, the same, however, can’t be said for his experiences coaching a girls softball team.
“That’s why I don’t ever want to coach girls again,” Hazzle said.
After a loss, the Aberdeen coach instructed his players to follow their parents’ wishes and leave the field in the vehicle they arrived in. The players refused to and walked back to the other side of town.
“The next day the parents were on me and said, ‘Why didn’t you make my daughter get in the car?’” Hazzle said. “I said, ‘Ma’am, I told them to get in; they didn’t want to.’”
Still, the parents insisted that the Aberdeen coach should have made his players get in the vehicle.
“I said, ‘What did you want me to do? Put my hands on them and put them in the vehicle?’”
The parents responded with a no.
“I then said, ‘Well, wait a minute. What did you tell them to do?” Hazzle asked.
The parents told him that “the way they went down there was the way that we wanted them to come back.”
Hazzle’s response: “Well, OK then. They didn’t disobey me, they disobeyed you.”
He has never dealt with coaching a girls team since.
“To this day, I thank my heavenly Father that I learned to never coach girls,” Hazzle joked.
In it to win it
Hazzle’s career record entering this season was 483-250. It would be nice to win at least 17 games this season to reach the 500 mark, but the number of wins the Bulldogs care the most about is the six wins needed to win the state championship.
“I expect that they’ll get to Jackson and we’ll reclaim the state championship,” Hazzle said at the beginning of November. “I told them the other night – and I said that I’m not going to mention it anymore to them – that there’s one gold ball for 3A basketball and why can’t it be Aberdeen’s?
“I said, ‘All of you can see your faces in it when you win it. But it’s not going to be given to you or handed to you. You’re going to have to go and take it.
“‘That means you’re going to have to work and prepare and dedicate yourself to doing that.’”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572
John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal