Patrick Ochs

Patrick Ochs: Close hoops community 'a Coast thing'

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD 
 Harrison Central head coach Boo Hardy gives instructions to his team during the second quarter of their 6A South State semifinal game against Biloxi at St. Martin High School on Friday Feb. 22, 2013.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALD Harrison Central head coach Boo Hardy gives instructions to his team during the second quarter of their 6A South State semifinal game against Biloxi at St. Martin High School on Friday Feb. 22, 2013. SUN HERALD

Pascagoula put out East Central in the Region 8-5A tournament last year, effectively ending the Hornets season.

Prior to the start of the Class 5A playoffs a week later, Panthers coach Ronald Norman recalled hearing from ECHS coach Wes Brewer.

Here his team had put out the Hornets and Brewer was calling to wish the Panthers good luck.

"We played them in the division tournament and on the Saturday go-to-Jackson game, he was right there sitting by our bench cheering us on," Norman said last Wednesday. "That's huge. He called me before we played to say 'go get 'em, Coach.'" That's a really good thing to have that support."

Added Brewer: "Coach Norman put us out and in the next game they host Natchez, and I'm down there rooting for them. It's just one of those things where it's a brotherhood."

That's just one example of the camaraderie of the Coast's basketball community.

Each of the coaches admit that once the whistle blows and the game starts, they won't hold anything back, but when they're not facing off on the court they tend to look after one another.

"I think all of the coaches on the Coast care about each other. We all want to see each other do well," said D'Iberville's Lorenzo Wright, who has his team off to a hot 14-3 start. "That's why you see us always asking how each other are doing. At the same time, when we step between the lines against each other, it becomes 'I want to win instead of you.'"

That fraternity was on display once again last Wednesday at the annual Hoopsfest luncheon at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.

Prior to the unveiling of the seven-game schedule, the coaches sat around a long table and laughed, asked how the other was doing -- oh, and if they could swap game film of future opponents.

"Here I think everybody has a great respect for each other," said Norman, whose Panthers were 10-4 heading into Tuesday night's showdown against West Harrison. "Now, between the lines, I can speak for every coach on the Coast: We want to beat each other. But, when it's said and done we all have a general respect for each other, and we all support each other -- when we're not playing one another.

"It's a Coast thing. We want people on the Coast to be successful. That speaks volumes to the coaches that we have on the Coast and their character."

Owen Miller, who played with Harrison Central's Boo Hardy at Gulfport and against Biloxi's Seber Windham, and had Wright as an assistant, said it all comes down to respect. He added there's a pride that accompanies being a Coastian that he thinks adds to the closeness of the Coast's coaching fraternity.

"I want to beat Boo (Hardy), I want to beat Lorenzo, I want to beat Seber. I want to beat them when we play. Intently I want to win and so do they," Gulfport's coach said. "But when it's over, because of the respect that's there, it's over. We congratulate each other, move on and try to get better from it. Because of our relationships and the respect that's there, we're able to not make it personal."

Other thoughts

How about Devin Booker: The former Moss Point and Kentucky standout continues to impress at the NBA level. With his 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Hornets last Wednesday, Booker became the youngest Phoenix Sun -- and fifth-youngest regardless of team -- to record a double-double. With Eric Bledsoe going down to injury, Booker has seen his playing time tick up in recent weeks. Booker is averaging 7.6 points per game -- in 18.1 minutes -- on the season, but in the four games this month he has averaged 16 points in a whopping 33.3 minutes. Not bad for a rookie.

PRCC standing by Saunders: I'm curious to see what retaining David Saunders does for Pearl River Community College's recruiting efforts. The school promoted Saunders to head coach early last month but has not held formal introduction -- just sent out a press release. Minimal fan fair for the face of a school's football program. Even through the recent sanctions, the school has stood by Saunders. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what I think or any other observer. It comes down to the recruits. We'll find out what they think next month on signing day.

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