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Coaches understand that they work at the 'pleasure' of school system officials

The big sports news in our area last week was Washington-Wilkes' Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Russell Morgan being forced out of his job. Russell's wife, Tanya, was a teacher at Thomson High School for many years where she taught my daughter. Ashley. The Morgans are two of my favorite people because of their honest sincerity and genuine, down-to-earth love of folks. It is a great honor for my family to call them our friends.

I have no idea what the Wilkes County Board of Education's beef with Russell is, and it sounds like he doesn't know either. Apparently he's done something they didn't like or perhaps they just don't like him. Who knows? It would be a waste of time to try to figure out what they are thinking. Maybe those school board members aren't even sure themselves. Maybe they just are not thinking at all. Could others be influencing them?

The debate will go on forever about how many games a coach has to win to keep the public satisfied but don't fool yourself; sometimes all of them won't be enough. Coach Morgan's situation reminds me of a coach that I once worked for. This particular coach had served at his school as an assistant for a long time and had made the community his home. He was promoted to head coach where he compiled a record of 26-10 in three years and was coach of one of only 10 teams to beat Valdosta during the entire decade of the 80s.

Like any head coach. he knew there were those that did not support him but he tried his best to work through it. One day during lunch he, another assistant and myself were chatting in his office. The principal came in and asked me and the other guy to leave. Less than two minutes later, they walked out and the coach told us that the school board had officially fired him.

We were taken aback, but to say any of the three of us were surprised would not be accurate. There was a handful, including the principal, who complained about everything. The vast majority thought the coach was doing a good job and the program would only get better under his guidance. It only took a very small group with the right positions in town to get rid of him in spite of what most would consider his good record on and off the field. His firing was the result of pure, rotten, dirty politics.

My contention is that when a good person that is trying to do his best loses his job because of politics he ultimately ends up better off. At the moment it hurts, it makes one angry, and it is embarrassing. A year or two later, you land on your feet with a satisfying job minus the backstabbers looking over your shoulder. That's the way it worked out for my old coaching friend.

Unlike tenured teachers, coaches are among those that serve at the pleasure of the school board. This is when "pleasure" can become a dirty word. If you have a school board with their minds made up regardless of the facts, they may actually take pleasure in the power trip that comes with this authority. If Russell Morgan indeed ends up without his job at Washington-Wilkes due to the pleasure of a few, they, not he will be the loser.

Here I am, an old Lincoln County boy now living in Thomson finding myself actually pulling for Washington-Wilkes, unless they are playing the Red Devils or the Bulldogs. I pulled for them because of Russell and Tanya Morgan. When I talked to them last week, I quickly told them there is one good thing about this right now, I'll never have to pull for Washington-Wilkes again if Russell ain't their coach.

Russell, Tonya and Thomas Morgan are great people who call Wilkes County home but may or may not continue to do so in the future. They will be assets to wherever they call home and the whims of a few pulling the strings of Wilkes County school board members will never change that. If they end up leaving Wilkes County I say "good riddance" and not on behalf of our neighbors that live there but on behalf of the Morgans. They, and their new community, will end up the beneficiary and it will pleasure me to see it.

Web posted on Thursday, December 18, 2008

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