High School Sports

Vancleave's baseball coach is moving on after leading the school to its first state title

Vancleave head coach Daniel Best (left) prepares to give Justin Stokes (9) his gold medal on Friday, May 18, 2018, in the MHSAA State Baseball Championships at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss. Best has been hired to take over the Brandon High School baseball team.
Vancleave head coach Daniel Best (left) prepares to give Justin Stokes (9) his gold medal on Friday, May 18, 2018, in the MHSAA State Baseball Championships at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss. Best has been hired to take over the Brandon High School baseball team. Courtesy of Chris Todd

Daniel Best led Vancleave High School to its first baseball state championship in his initial season as a head coach, but the 2018 campaign will be his last with the Jackson County program.

Best has been hired to take over the Brandon High School baseball team.

Brandon athletic director Tyler Peterson called Best on Tuesday morning to see if he would be interested in discussing the school's opening following Stacy Hester's retirement as head coach.

“We scheduled an interview for yesterday,” Best said. “We went up and talked for an hour or two, went around and looked at the facilities. They let my wife talk with a few people in the school system. The meeting went really well. They called me today and offered me the job and I accepted.

“It's something that happened fast. I wasn't pursuing anything. I didn't even realize it was open. I was just trying to get through summer ball and I was hiring assistants to my staff.”

Brandon, which is a Class 6A school, is considered one of the top baseball programs in the state.

“I'm definitely excited about it,” Best said. “It's a great opportunity for me and my family. They've got a really good program year in and year out. There's a lot of talent in that area. We're excited about moving up there.”

The Ruston, Louisiana, native was elevated to the top job at Vancleave after Daniel Threadgill resigned in May of 2017 so he could return to Kossuth.

Best took over a Vancleave squad that featured a strong group of seniors, including Class 4A Player of the Year Bailee Hendon, to a 29-7 record. The Bulldogs won the program's first South State title and first state championship.

Vancleave swept New Hope, 1-0 and 3-0, in the state title round in Pearl behind stellar pitching performances from Hendon and Hayden Robb.

“A lot of coaches go their entire career without a state championship,” Best said. “I was fortunate to get one in my first year. We had a good group of kids. It takes talent, hard work. It also takes a lot of luck with the ball bouncing your way. It's definitely something I'll never forget.”

Best informed his players of his decision Friday.

“It's tough anytime you leave a school, whether you have good years or bad years,” he said. “You build relationships with teachers, friends, administration and players most of all.

“I let my team know today and it went over well. They understand why. It's a good move for me and my family. It's a tough situation to leave those kids. At the end of the day, I have to do what's best for my family.”

Best was a standout pitcher at Southern Miss from 2003-06, earning an All-American nod as a closer his junior year. He played a season in the Kansas City Royals system before moving into coaching.

He has coaching stops as an assistant at St. Patrick, Biloxi and Neville High School in Monroe, Louisiana.

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