By Brandon Speck
Cliff Little’s job just got a lot harder – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Little, in his fourth year as Biggersville’s boys basketball coach, was approved Monday as the new girls’ coach, too.
The approval comes after a loud effort from the community and team for Little to take over after Chris Parman stepped down.
“I’m honored they spoke up for me, but it’s more about they want success,” Little said.
They’ve seen the boys’ success. Little downplays his role, but he led the Lions to the 2013 Class 1A state championship, in a second straight appearance. He also won a title at East Webster.
Such moves are trending. Booneville did the same thing last season, naming boys coach Michael Smith the girls coach after he led the boys to the 2011 Class 3A title. The result: Booneville won the first girls title in school history.
“Without the parents’ support in what we’re trying to do, it’s not possible,” Little said. “There is so much interest and love for that program, from people who don’t have kids playing. It’s amazing the support we’ve had.”
Smith says the support around the program is as imperative as the coaching.
“I don’t think one person can do it,” Smith said. “I think the whole key is, you have to have a great staff. I had a great coaching staff. And you’ve got to have the support of the administration.
“Our coaches, thy worked so hard at it, but at the same time, the administration was so supportive.”
Legendary Ingomar coach Norris Ashley won 1,697 boys and girls games and nine combined state titles, plus a Grand Slam. Houlka coach Jimmy Guy McDonald has been pulling double duty for 43 years.
McDonald won two girls state championships and a Grand Slam and one boys’ title.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” McDonald said. “I know at one time, both teams were at the state tournament. That was quite exciting.”
Little will be busy. He’ll also be coaching junior high. Plus every practice will be after school, opening the possibility that the Littles won’t get home until after 8 p.m. most nights. But he spins it as a positive.
It’s what they do. Little’s wife, Jana, will be his assistant with the girls – Tracy Stafford will help with the boys, who lost a lot of production, but no one expect the Lions to hit the deck. Little says the conversations at home, even with first-grader Lainey, revolve around the sport and that Jana is constantly pushing him to be better.
Biggersville will return three seniors, Tyler Shelley, Taylor Beth Nash and Savannah Davis, plus a top player in junior Jada Tubbs.
“We love doing it and we love being up there,” he said. “It’s going to be challenging, at times grueling, but the rewards will come in little things day-by-day, the effort seeing them get better and being a part of it.”