January 26, 2013

McKinney steps down on diamond

By Chris Whitfield

— For the second year in a row, Dalton High’s softball team will have a new coach.

Lady Catamounts coach Jeff McKinney, who took over just before the start of the 2012 season after Bobby Brotherton resigned, submitted his letter of resignation to Dalton High athletic director Ron Ward this week.

Brotherton, who was also the school’s baseball coach, resigned in August after he took a position with Whitfield County Schools. McKinney, who also coaches girls basketball — he is in his 13th season leading that program — said he hadn’t even planned on being an assistant coach for this past softball season because his son Jordon would be playing freshman and junior varsity football at Dalton.

“It was so late when the season was about to start, and coach Brotherton hated to leave the girls hanging like that, and I just wanted the girls to have some kind of stability,” McKinney said. “I just didn’t want to miss any of Jordon’s stuff. I missed so much of his middle school games, and my original intent was to be there for his games during high school.”

Ward said he wasn’t surprised with Mc-Kinney’s resignation and was grateful to him for filling the void.

“When Bobby left, that left us with a huge hole to fill, and softball was coming up very quickly,” Ward said. “Jeff was instrumental in stepping in, and it was a great and easy transition for the girls and he did a great job with them. He had been telling me that it would probably be a one-year thing.”

McKinney assisted Brotherton during the 2011 season, which was also the senior year of McKinney’s daughter Chandler. He had submitted his resignation as a softball assistant in preparation for Jordon’s freshman year, but when Brotherton left the program, Ward asked McKinney to step in and lead.

“It was so late and the season was about to start and coach Brotherton wouldn’t have wanted the girls to have to start all over,” McKinney said. “A lot of those girls are like my own girls, and I didn’t want them to suffer. I knew all of the drills that coach Brotherton used, and we kept everything like it was in practice from the last year and changed very little from the previous year.”

McKinney’s team went 15-19 overall but got hot in the postseason. Despite entering the Region 7-4A tournament as the event’s lowest seed, the Lady Cats earned a berth in the Class 4A state playoffs and advanced to the second round before losing 2-1 in a best-of-three series at Columbus. A pair of seniors signed athletic scholarships after the season ended, with Allie Blackwood going to Austin Peay and Carson Hagin going to Alderson-Broaddus University.

One solution to the Lady Cats’ coaching vacancy that may be on some people’s minds isn’t likely to happen. After Brotherton’s departure, Ward brought in former Northwest Whitfield softball coach and baseball assistant Shane Ramsey to take over the Cats’ baseball program, and he’ll lead that team for the first time this spring. However, Ward said Ramsey told him he “isn’t interested” in the softball job.

“He is expecting a new child, and he can’t devote the time to both programs with a new child on the way,” Ward said.

McKinney isn’t the only departure from the softball program.

In January, Jeremy (J.B.) Brotherton left the program to become an assistant baseball coach at Georgia Perimeter, a junior college. Assistant coach Lacie Coquerille remains with the program, but Ward said she is not a certified teacher and is ineligible to be a head coach, per GHSA rules.

Ward said the position would be opened to applicants currently in the Dalton Public Schools system and that an interview committee would be formed. He expects to advertise the position online for a week, and if a qualified internal candidate cannot be found, he will advertise the position outside of the system.

“We want to do something very quickly,” Ward said. “Primarily we want to look inside the system so we don’t have to fill a teaching position as well as a coaching position.

“I’ve already had a couple of people express interest in the position and we look forward to seeing where we go from here.”