Thursday, April 27, 2006
Kirkland retires with 813 wins
By BARRY BURLESON
One of Mississippi’s most successful high school basketball coaches is calling it quits.
Gerone Kirkland, head coach at H.W. Byers the last seven seasons, leaves courtside with 813 career victories in 40 years.
“I’ve been in it a long time,” Kirkland said. “To be successful, it’s almost a year-round job now. It kind of tires you out.
“I’m to a point, where I said to myself, ‘I’ve been pretty successful and accomplished a lot,’ so I made my mind up.”
The words “pretty successful” are an understatement. Kirkland has won two state championships at Rosa Fort, one in 3A and one in 4A. He also carried Rosa Fort to the Class 5A semi-finals.
At Byers, his Lions twice played in the Class 1A title contest. They made the state tournament five straight seasons and advanced to the next round, only missing the trip to the “Big House” in Jackson his first and final seasons at the school.
“He’s a great coach,” said Byers principal Gary Hannah. “He’s a good game manager, and he knows how to win. He’s done a lot for our school. He took the school places it had never been.”
Kirkland’s philosophy was to be the best his teams had to play the best.
“We didn’t run from anybody,” he said. “Playing up is always better than playing down. Here at Byers, we played a lot of 3A, 4A and 5A schools, and it made us better.”
He credits his players and hard work for his success over the years.
“I’ve had good players,” Kirkland said. “Some big wins really stand out, along with some of the losses that should not have been losses.
“I put in a lot of work – a lot of scouting reports and different approaches to games. You’ve got to be able to change your offensive and defensive schemes in the course of a season. And when you go against good coaches, you have to change.”
Kirkland will still teach driver’s education at Byers.
“I will sit back now and enjoy the games and support the program,” he said. “These are good kids, and I want to support them.”
Kilgore new head coach
His replacement will be Sylvester Kilgore Jr., who led the junior high teams this past season.
Kilgore, 33, grew up in Holly Springs. He’s a graduate of Bishop Byrne High School. In high school, he competed in basketball, football, track and cross country.
He received his bachelor’s degree from Rust College and completed graduate school at Ole Miss. At Rust, he was a member of the basketball, track and cross country teams.
Kilgore coached eight years at Longview Middle School in Memphis.
“He’s very knowledgeable and capable,” Hannah said about the new head coach of the Lions. “He has a good work ethic and a great rapport with the students. I believe they will learn a lot from him.”
Kilgore said the new job is a great opportunity and a challenge.
“Coach Kirkland is a legend,” he said. “I learned a lot from him last year. I hope to continue what he’s started and go from there.
“I’m looking forward to it. This is a good group of kids, and I’m real excited.”
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