By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
Bobby Ford calls Snowtown “a church community outside Okolona.” It’s where the long-time Okolona basketball coach spent his early years.
For the last 33 years, though, Ford has held his own services at Okolona High School as head boys basketball coach.
Ford has been a rare constant since 1980, but is hanging it up. His last coaching stop will be Saturday at Northeast Mississippi CC for the annual Northeast Mississippi Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Games, where he’ll coach the Class 1A/2A boys West team vs. the East at 2:15 p.m.
The event at Bonner Arnold Coliseum features four games, beginning at 1 p.m. with the 1A/2A East vs. West girls.
“People always told me I’d know when the time felt right. It’s time,” Ford said. “There is a good young guy waiting to take over.”
Anteria Clifton, currently the Lady Chieftains coach, is that guy. Ford took the job on a late opening on the urging of his former high school coach 33 years ago, his alma mater and only coaching stop. He can’t point to just one standout moment in his long tenure.
“You get to know a lot of people, meet a lot of people and working with those kids,” Ford said. “Each team is a different team. We’ve had some great players. There are a number of things. It’s been very rewarding. I always feel like I put a lot in it and got a lot out.”
HAZZLE’S LAST STAND
Ford is sharing the stage with a fellow legend, Aberdeen’s Roy Hazzle. Hazzle won’t be returning to the Bulldogs’ sideline, where he has been head coach for the last 26 seasons and won the 2007 Class 3A championship.
He is coaching the 3A/4A/5A/6A East boys at 4:45 p.m. with new Aberdeen coach Cornelius Gilleylen.
“It’s an honor to be asked,” said Hazzle, a multiple-time all-star coach. “And it may be my last time.”