By Devin Golden
Lacie Coquerille led Dalton High School’s girls basketball team to multiple successful years as a player.
Now she will try and do the same as the Lady Catamounts’ head coach.
Coquerille, who was an assistant coach last season, was named Thursday morning as the Dalton girls new coach and met with most of the team Thursday afternoon.
Coquerille replaces veteran coach Jeff McKinney, who became the school’s athletic director and assistant principal in May.
Coquerille started all four years at point guard for McKinney and graduated in 2007. Dalton reached the Georgia High School Association state playoffs in each of those years and twice reached the second round. The program’s record in those four years was 90-24. Coquerille led the Lady Cats in scoring her senior season, and made The Daily Citizen’s 2006-2007 All-Area Girls Basketball Team. She also reached the 1,100-plus career points plateau.
“I knew Lacie would be special by the time she was a junior in high school, because as a point guard she knew our offense as well as anybody I’ve had,” McKinney said. “She could call plays without needing a coach’s assistance. She’s very intelligent, she loves basketball, she sat on the bench last year and was very active with them last year and even more active this summer.”
Once McKinney, who had been the program’s head coach since 2002, became athletic director, the idea of him staying as coach for the 2013-2014 season was discussed since summer camps and workouts were beginning.
“There was consideration about possibly still coaching,” McKinney said. “But we decided it’d be a good opportunity for her to start right now. There were times I couldn’t be there this summer, but she worked with them. We already had been making that transition, so it ended up being a good chance for her and me to work together and her to take over.”
Coquerille wasn’t immediately interested in the opening, but as the summer progressed, that changed.
“We continued to work on summer camps and practices throughout June and I started thinking about it and seeing myself as being able to step into his position and do the things he could do,” Coquerille said.
Coquerille inherits a program that won a share of the Sub-region 7B-4A title last year and reached the Class 4A state playoffs and the Class 3A state championship game in 2011.
In McKinney’s 11 seasons as head coach — he was an assistant for one year before taking over the program — the Lady Cats made the state playoffs eight times, the second round five times and quarterfinals twice.
He has a career record of 501-151 and Dalton record of 251-56. That’s an average of 22.8 wins and 5.1 losses at Dalton.
After graduating in 2011 from Tennessee Tech University, where she played softball, she spent one year as the Jennings County Middle School (Indiana) girls basketball head coach and the 2012-2013 season as an assistant coach to McKinney both for girls basketball and softball. She is 24 years old.
“I think younger people should have the opportunity to do this, and this is a good chance for her,” McKinney said.
Her youth doesn’t keep her from being firm as a coach, players said.
“I’m excited about it, because coach Coquerille is someone we can relate to,” said junior Sarah Hartshorn, a guard. “She’s someone we can connect to, and she’s someone who if we need something or need correction, she’s OK with telling us what to do and not being lenient about saying it. She can be stern at times but then she can be more of a friend at times.”
Both Hartshorn and junior post player Hannah Cox are happy with the choice, and both had confidence the school would make a good hire.
“I knew they would choose someone who would be a good coach and help us grow as players,” Cox said.
For Coquerille, this is a chance to complete the player-to-coach circle, and do so at her alma mater.
“I can’t even put into words how excited I am,” she said. “I played here for four years, and the school and team and community mean so much to me.
“One of the big things is I got to know these players over the last year and really enjoyed working with them and getting to know them outside of basketball. I think that’s a big plus in coming into the program.”