Basketball coach finds success in second career

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

Randy Michael was a proficient point guard for the Booneville Blue Devils in the early ’70s.
He’s proven to be an equally productive coach this decade.
Michael, 54, won his 100th career game as a boys and girls basketball coach for Wheeler High School last week in just his fourth season.
“That’s not something I keep up with,” Michael said, referring to his win total. “It’s something my wife’s proud of.
“My goal is to win a state championship.”
Michael got a late start on his journey to the coaching profession. He didn’t return to college until he was 48, after nearly 28 years spent as an electrician, plumber, factory worker and business owner.
“I’ve been a lot of different things, but I was never really satisfied with what I was doing,” he said. “God spoke to me about 10 years ago and told me this is what he wanted me to do.”
Michael resisted heading in a new direction out of fear – the fear of failure.
“I put off going back to college for two years,” he said. “I realized fear is not a god. I knew God would take care of me.”
Michael returned to Northeast Mississippi Community College, where he had played basketball for two seasons following high school, and completed one year of school. He then attended Ole Miss for two years and graduated.
“I didn’t make straight As, but I was doggone close,” he said, then laughed.

Feeling blessed
Today, he teaches three classes – world history, U.S. history and psychology – along with coaching boys basketball and golf. He coached boys and girls for three seasons, but gave up his girls duties this year to concentrate on just one program.
“It’s hard, as old as I am, to keep up with both,” he said. “You have two teams to scout for, two teams to prepare. There’s just a lot to do.
“I didn’t feel like I was doing a good job for either one. I want to be able to give it everything I have.”
He feels the same way about his work in the classroom.
“I feel blessed to be able to teach history and talk history,” he said. “I hope I can make a difference in a student’s life. They inspire me, too.”
Wheeler principal Todd Swinney hopes Michael can get the Eagles’ boys program – one that has 11 state championship banners – turned around.
“It’s worked out well for him,” Swinney said. “It’s hard work. It’s a thankless profession.”
Wheeler’s boys struggled last season, winning just seven games. Michael, who played for the late, legendary coach Gerald Caviness, has accepted the challenge and understands the desire for success in boys basketball at the Prentiss County school.
“It’s rare for a man to get a start in a program like this, one where they’ve won so many state championships,” he said. “They don’t like losing here. I don’t like losing.”
Win or lose, Michael has not regretted his decision to become a high school teacher and coach.
“This has been rewarding beyond what I can tell you,” he said. “I look forward to coming to work every day.”

Contact Gene Phelps at 678-1593 or gene.phelps@djournal.com.