BY MARK BEASON
Billy Jefcoat knows exactly what it takes to be an assistant coach. Now, the Laurel native gets his shot at being a head coach.
Northeast Mississippi Community College has named Jefcoat the school's new men's basketball coach, replacing Mike Lewis, who retired earlier this year.
Jefcoat comes to Northeast from Troy State University, where he was an assistant coach for the past nine years.
He's no stranger to Mississippi community college basketball, having played for two years at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville before finishing out his eligibility at Troy State.
While at Troy, he helped lead the Trojans to a berth in the 2003 NCAA tournament. Last season, Troy State was 24-7, losing in the first round of the National Invitational Tournament.
After serving as an assistant, Jefcoat is eager to have a program to call his own.
“I think one thing that has always been important to me is getting to be a head coach,” he said. “You don't get into coaching to be an assistant. Everybody wants to be a head coach, and that's something that has driven me.”
Jefcoat has first-hand knowledge of Northeast and its program, having played for Jones. When Lewis announced he was stepping down, it was an opportunity Jefcoat had to pursue.
“In my opinion this is the best junior college job in the state,” he said. “Northeast has a great tradition and fan support, and once I started looking at the job, it made me want it even more.”
Northeast president Dr. Charles Chance is confident in the selection, despite Jefcoat's lack of head coaching experience.
Chance received 21 applications and interviewed five of the canidates. He said the school was fortunate to have a good pool of candidates to choose from, and he's satisfied the selection committee made the right choice.
“There are a lot of things to consider when you make a hire,” Chance said. “Nobody has everything you want, but we feel like we've got the best package that fits in with Northeast.”
Jefcoat has to hit the ground running, trying to sign players to fill out the roster. With recruiting in full swing, Jefcoat and assistant coach Maurice Stafford have to do a good job playing catchup. Despite getting a late start, Jefcoat is optimistic about bringing in quality talent.
“I know it won't be easy, but it's something I feel confident we can do,” he said. “I've got a list of potential players in front of me, and it's a matter of deciding which guys will fit in with what we're trying to do.”
Jefcoat, who inherits a team that finished 10-15 last season, has set some lofty goals for his Tigers.
“Our goal every year will be to win the state championship and to compete at a national level,” he said. “That's what our fans expect.”