Clark accepts position at UMS-Wright

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 28, 2003

The Pleasant Home Eagles have an empty nest.

Head Basketball Coach Anthony Clark created the empty nest with a decision to accept the head coaching job offered to him by officials at UMS-Wright in Mobile.

Clark met with his players Thursday and told them he was leaving shortly after accepting the job, but it wasn't easy for the Pleasant Home graduate.

"It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make," Clark said. "Marrying Chanda was a no-brainer and coming back here to Pleasant Home was an easy decision.

"It's leaving home again," he explained. "So, it's a very tough decision."

Pleasant Home School Principal Jim Garner said he is excited for Clark, but the coach will be missed.

"I'm happy for him. I think it's a great opportunity for him," Garner said.

Clark said he is not sure when his last day at Pleasant Home School will be, but the two schools are trying to work together to come up with an agreement.

The decision to leave came down to what was best for Clark and his family. While staying at Pleasant Home would be a great fit, the opportunity to coach at UMS-Wright came at just the right time.

"The deciding factor is that UMS-Wright reminded me a lot of Pleasant Home," Clark said. "There are no locks on the lockers. Pictures line the walls to remind people of the history and tradition of the school. UMS-Wright is over 100 years old."

One aspect of the move that has Clark excited is that it will allow him to spend more time with his family. He will be the head coach of the varsity boys' basketball team and over the school's basketball program. He will not teach a class, but oversee study hall.

Putting down his whistle during football season means Clark can take in a game with his family on Friday nights. He is also looking forward to being around the house more with his son Trey, who starts kindergarten in the fall, daughter Emma and Chanda.

"It's going to give me a lot more time with my family," Clark said. "It'll be nice to take my family to a Friday night football game and not have to do any scouting or laundry."

Clark said he knows some people will think he is leaving because they do not believe the Pleasant Home basketball team will have as much talent next year as it has the past five years. He, however, said he still sees a bright future for the Eagles.

"I think we have plenty of potential here," Clark said. "I'm going to continue to work the kids here hard because I am interested in the program."

The Pleasant Home basketball players and students were a little shocked when they found out Clark was leaving. He said many of the students understand why he is leaving.

"There were a lot of emotions," Clark said about the atmosphere when he told his players. "It was tough for me to do and tough for them to take.

"I've had chances to leave before and didn't take them," he added. "Our kids are resilient and will play hard for whoever comes in to coach."

Garner said he knows the players and students will miss Clark.

"They have a lot of love and admiration for him," Garner said. "They will miss him and not just the student-athletes. All of the students will miss him."

One of the ironic aspects of taking the head job at UMS-Wright is that Clark will now face the Andalusia Bulldogs in area games which should make the rivalry even more intense.

"I'm excited because we'll play them in football and basketball," Clark said. "It'll give me a chance to come home and see people.

"I think I've developed a good relationship with (Andalusia Head) Coach (Richard) Robertson and I respect him," Clark continued.

Playing Andalusia in games with playoff implications will be something new for Clark, but he said he knows what kind of atmosphere he can expect and looks forward to seeing some old friends when they play Robertson's Bulldogs.

"It'll give me a chance to see Robertson's Raiders," Clark said.

The move to UMS-Wright is another step in Clark's career. He began his career as the head coach of the girls' team at Beauregard in 1991 and stayed there through the 1998 season. He took the Beauregard girls to the Final Four once.

Clark came to Pleasant Home in the fall of 1998 and in the five years he has been back at his alma mater the Eagles have been to five Final Fours and played in three Class 1A State Championship Games. He directed the Eagles to back-to-back state titles and just missed a sixth trip to the Final Four this past season.

The Eagles put together an impressive 28-4 record in the postseason during their five years under Clark's leadership. Seven players have made an All-State Team and eight have signed or will sign to continue their basketball careers in college. Also, five Pleasant Home players have played on an all-star team representing the state of Alabama.

Garner said Clark did a great job at Pleasant Home both with the football and basketball programs.

"He's had some great years at Pleasant Home," Garner said. "He was here at the start of the football program, and in the first three years we made the playoffs twice.

"In basketball, he's just had five great years," he added. "We played in three state championship games and won two."

The UMS-Wright Bulldogs are getting the cream of the crop in Clark.

"Anthony is an outstanding young man," Garner said. "He's not only a good coach, but a great person. He sets a great example."

The process of finding a coach to fill the vacancy created by Clark's departure is expected to begin at the next Covington County Board of Education meeting when the board members are expected to accept Clark's resignation.