Patrick Ochs

9 thoughts: Former Coast coach Grieves excited to be back South for the winter

AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD 
 Metamora's Jordan Dehm, right, snags the rebound from Biloxi's Marques McGee, center, and teammate Miachel Adams during the Gulfport Hardwood Holiday Classic on Tuesday, December 29, 2015.
AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD Metamora's Jordan Dehm, right, snags the rebound from Biloxi's Marques McGee, center, and teammate Miachel Adams during the Gulfport Hardwood Holiday Classic on Tuesday, December 29, 2015. SUN HERALD

There were plenty of familiar faces at the Bert Jenkins Gymnasium on Monday.

Some, like former Gulfport coach Gerald Austin, are fixtures at the gym.

Others, like former Coast coach Dannie Grieves, are a bit rarer.

Folks in attendance at this week's Gulfport Hardwood Holiday Classic saw Grieves courtside for the first time since he departed St. Stanislaus for a gig closer to home in Illinois.

During eight seasons on the Coast, Grieves hopped between Bay High, St. Stanislaus, St. Patrick and Gulfport.

Grieves was a robust 106-19 in five years with the Admirals so it should come as no surprise that he was excited to bring his Redbirds back South for the winter.

2. Right fit

Grieves said his team had an opening for the holidays and so he called up current Gulfport coach Owen Miller.

"One thing led to another and here we are," he said, stepping out of Gulfport's familiar home locker room after beating West Harrison on Monday. "I've been gone five years since we won the state championship over at St. Stanislaus in 2011. It's great to be back. I love this gym. We won a lot of games here and it has a good feel to it. Good to be here."

The Redbirds turned around on Tuesday and knocked off Biloxi to advance to the tournament's championship game.

3. Remembering Bert

One of the most recent changes at "The Bert," was the addition of Jenkins' signature on the hardwood.

"I love Bert Jenkins' signature on the floor," Grieves said. "He was such a classy man. He taught me, just in the five years I was here, so much about basketball and how to be a better coach. He was even a mentor to myself, so it was good to see them do that for him."

4. Business and fun

The lengthy trip to Gulfport is good for Grieves' club in a number of ways.

"First of all, I told them when we got on the plane that it's a business trip but we're going to have a good time. We've taken them out, show them some of the nice restaurants and the beach. Some of the kids have never been to the beach, so it has been a lot of fun," Grieves said. "The way I look at it, when I saw the seven other teams I knew anybody could beat anybody in this tournament. Obviously Gulfport and Biloxi have really good teams, and Harrison Central. And you take a look at St. Martin and they're the No. 1 team in the state. We looked at it like it's a great opportunity to get ready for post-season play."

And then, of course, the weather is a bit of a plus.

"It's 40 degrees warmer here," he said. "We've got a sheet of ice everywhere and half the town is without electricity, so we're livin' large."

5. Superstitious much?

Although the two schools are only about 20 miles apart, No. 3 Pascagoula and No. 1 St. Martin are only on-again, off-again rivals on the hardwood -- which probably made Monday's 71-70 overtime win all the sweeter for the Panthers.

After beating the Yellow Jackets for a second time in as many tries, Pascagoula third-year coach Ronald Norman had a hard time containing his excitement.

"My first win at Pascagoula was against them. Down by 18, came back and won by six," he said. "To come back and win this one, to tell you how superstitious I was, this is exactly what I wore two three years ago on Super Saturday. I wore blue, red and khaki. Sure did. It worked out well."

6. 'Stats are for losers' -- go win

Pascagoula struggled on and off all night from the free-throw line. When they needed a play at the end of overtime, however, Jakwaize Walker was there to knock down what ended up being the biggest free throw of the night.

"We were 0-for-7 from the free throw line down the stretch, but I told my guys stats are for losers," Norman said. "The New England Patriots, one of the years they won the Super Bowl, they led the league in penalties. Stats are for losers -- go win. That's what they did. As bad as we shot free throws, we made just enough plays to win."

7. Beat the best

Pascagoula seemed to play with a chip on its shoulder against St. Martin on Monday and again against host Gulfport on Tuesday. The Panthers' determination especially showed against the Yellow Jackets, who have a number of "name" players, including senior guard Stacee St. Julian who is considered one of the top players in Mississippi.

"That's how we play. We don't have any Division I superstars -- maybe one who is being recruited by a JUCO -- but they're all about Pascagoula," Norman said. "It's all about that P we put on our chest, pride and playing with an expectation that I want them to play with. They more than met my expectations."

A big reason the Panthers entered Gulfport's holiday tournament was to see how they compared to some of the best teams in the region -- if not state.

"Our kids took the challenge," Norman said. "That's the premier team on the Coast. We've always said we want to measure ourselves by the premiere teams on the Coast -- your Gulfports, Biloxis. St. Martin is on the same stage and we just want to be able to compete against those guys because if we play well against St. Martin then we should play well against anyone in 5A."

8. Getting defensive

West Harrison has had a tough start to the 2015 season. With more losses than wins, this season has been a far cry from last year's 28-3 squad.

Even after losing to Metamora on Monday, coach Milton Ray almost prophetically said he thought his team was turning the corner -- if the Canes could cinch up their defense.

Well, Tuesday West Harrison beat Madison Central at the buzzer 47-45 by holding the Jaguars to a season-low scoring total.

"(The key) for us is buying in defensively," Ray said Monday. "Like I told the guys, we didn't win a lot of games last year because Harvey Smart was scoring 30 points a night. We won a lot last year because we played defense. If we can buy back into playing defense I think we'll be fine."

The Canes will play county rival Harrison Central at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

9. The (Other) Patrick's Picks

For entertainment purposes only ... Auburn (-3, courtesy of MGM Resorts International) will end 2015's otherwise forgettable season on a high note by beating Memphis by 10 in the Birmingham Bowl. ... Dan Mullen has alternated wins and losses in his last four bowl games. The trend continues Wednesday with Mississippi State (-6) beating N.C. State by 14 in the Belk Bowl. ... It probably doesn't matter WR Speedy Noil is suspended for the Music City Bowl because which Texas A&M (+4 1/2) QB was going to get him the ball anyway? Jaylen Smith and Louisville by 7. ... Alabama is a 10-point favorite over Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. That's a big line for a playoff game -- but it's not enough. The Tide will drown the Spartans in a 17-point rout to advance to the College Football Championship Game. ... Will Clemson (+ 3 1/2) remain undefeated by knocking off Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl? No. The Sooners have played a tougher schedule to get to the CFP semifinal game and should win by 10. ... Vols (-8 1/2) continue to roll with 18-point win over Northwestern in Outback Bowl. ... Make it three losses in a row for Florida. Michigan's turnaround continues with a 14-point win in the Citrus Bowl. ... The last time Ole Miss (-7 1/2) played in the Sugar Bowl, it edged Arkansas 27-22 in 1970. Expect a higher scoring game, but the Rebels will hang on in a shootout to best Oklahoma State by a touchdown ... Penn State has lost three in a row. Make it four after James Franklin's Nittany Lions fall to Georgia (-6 1/2) in the TaxSlayer Bowl -- I'll say by a safety, because why not? ... Arkansas is a 12-point favorite over Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl. No way the Hogs, who are better than their 7-5 record, screw it up in Memphis. Arkansas by 21.

As always, thanks for reading.

Patrick Ochs, a Sun Herald sports reporter, can be reached at pochs@sunherald.com or followed on Twitter at PatrickOchs.

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