In my years of being allowed to cover high school sports, I have crossed paths with many coaches, and observe some of the functions of many school districts and towns in Northeast Mississippi. One of those is Roy Hazzle, the boys basketball head coach at Aberdeen High School.
Mostly from afar, but in a hand full of occasions up close, Aberdeen and its school district has not always seemed to be a smoothly functioning entity.
But it was still a shock when the State of Mississippi place the district on probation in June, with a state appointed conservator taking over the day-to-day operations.
Now the way assignments are handed my way has mostly kept me out of Monroe County in recent years, but I have probably crossed paths with Aberdeen sports a number of times, still.
And whether it be basketball, or even football, I have always admired the way Coach Hazzle has carried himself in public.
From my perspective, simply doing his job, and setting a nice example of conduct for Aberdeen students.
Using a phrase I picked up over the years – he was trying in his own way to set the students he dealt with up for success as much as he could.
Heck, he even let me do the PA announcing at a hand full of games I covered after someone told him I did a pretty fair job at Tupelo, too (from 1986-1998, I did the PA for the Tupelo High School basketball teams, seems like a lifetime ago).
“It was hard to hear,” said Hazzle of the moment he hear of the probation. “Life has some bumps, but now we have to pick the ball up and move forward.
“Our young people are our most valuable commodity, and as long as they’re being treated fair, that’s what I’m looking for.”
I have been honored to cross the path of many a fine person over the years, so when a person or a school is going through a rough time, it always gives me pause on the outcome of the situation.
“I do think the situation is already getting better,” said Hazzle, who retired from full-time teaching two years ago, but is still entering his 36th year in the Aberdeen system in a part-time capacity. “It’s important for the community to know they must come together to help. “I know I’ll forever support the school system, and try to be a positive influence. I hope it’s not too long before we regain our accreditation.”
I feel that Coach Hazzle has poured his heart and soul into the Aberdeen school system over his years of work. And while everything does not always have a perfect ending, I hope he has a couple more years of coaching left in him.
And that by the time he completely retires, he can do so with his beloved school in good standing within the rules of the state, and Aberdeen students able to attend a quality school.
With school about to begin in the area, good luck Aberdeen this school year – the coming months are truly the big game for you.
On a more sporting note, how about the Aberdeen boys basketball team for the upcoming 2012-13 season?
The Bulldogs did qualify for the State Tournament last season, and might have the players in place to repeat their success.
“We always have high expectation,” said Hazzle, who guided the Bulldogs to a state title in 2008. “Once we get out of division, we have to be ready from that Tuesday on.
“We have to dance when it’s time to dance.”
David Wheeler has been contributing to the high school coverage of the Daily Journal since 1985.