By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
ECRU – College graduate Shane Montgomery was striking out in his attempt to land a high school coaching job in the spring of 1983.
“I went to five places and they all wanted somebody with experience,” said Montgomery, now 51, and a coach at North Pontotoc. “I didn’t have any experience.”
But Tremont principal James Reeves thought enough of the recent Ole Miss grad to hire him to coach girls basketball.
“He gave me my start,” said Montgomery, now in his 30th season of high school coaching in Northeast Mississippi (Tremont, Ripley and North Pontotoc). “The good Lord put me where I needed to be.”
Montgomery coached seven seasons at Tremont, finishing state runner-up in girls basketball in 1986 and 1990. He won a state championship in girls basketball at Ripley in 2003, then finished runner-up the next season.
He’s coached the last eight years at his alma mater, North Pontotoc. He won his 600th career basketball game last week when the Lady Vikings defeated Ingomar.
Asked about reaching the coaching milestone, Montgomery said simply, “It means I’ve been doing it a long time.”
His record is now 600-322 in girls hoops. He also has 87 wins in boys basketball, 278 in slow-pitch softball and 240 in fast-pitch softball.
Montgomery’s Lady Vikings won a fast-pitch state championship in 2010 and were runner-up in 2011. His 2009 slow-pitch team was a state runner-up.
“I believe in fundamentals,” he said. “That’s what all my teams work on. I’ve had good kids and good assistant coaches.”
One of Montgomery’s top assistant coaches – his wife, Suzanne – watches from the stands. “Having her close by means a lot to me,” he said. “She has been my right-hand man through this.”
Montgomery said he hasn’t made a decision on whether he’ll retire after 30 years in education and coaching.
“It’s been a wonderful 30 years,” he said. “Those first two years at Tremont I had to sink or swim. I learned to swim really quick.
“I got a lot of help from the older coaches when I was young. Now, I’m one of the older coaches.”