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Rumors, facts and adjustments for Cougar Nation

It’s been a tough couple of days for the Cougar Nation. With all of the uncertainty of what is going to happen with graduation, summer, the coronavirus and fall sports, Pulaski County also got two hits in the coaching department.


First, football head coach Stephen James announced that he was stepping down to take a teaching position at George Wythe, his alma mater. Coach James played sports and graduated from George Wythe, so just like anyone else, going home should be an appealing prospect.


Just a few days later, Lady Cougar basketball head coach Bradley Sutphin announced that he was also stepping down. He will be taking a teaching job at Narrows High School, where he will also be the new girls’ basketball coach for the Green Wave. Coach Sutphin also has a lot of family ties to Narrows, so again those home ties had a pull.


One of the biggest reasons both coaches gave was family. With the current situation, both have had a time to see what they’ve been missing out on. For Coach James, his daughter is a graduating senior who is heading off to Emory and Henry, where she will most likely play college volleyball. For Coach Sutphin, there are three little boys who he has had the chance to spend more time with lately.


Coaching takes a ton of dedication and time. Both had told me that the guilt of spending enough time on their coaching duties and the guilt of spending enough time at home weigh on them heavily. It’s very hard to do both for an extended period of time. With both of them living outside of the county, that made it even tougher.


We wish both coaches the best of luck moving forward. They are both good men who gave their best for Pulaski County, even though there were times that some of those voices in the stands questioned them.


So the big question for Pulaski County is, of course, what now?


It only took minutes for the internet to start buzzing with names and rumors. If the local barber shops were open, I have no doubt this would be the top topic of conversation.


Pulaski County is in a good spot. That’s one of the reasons both coaches felt a little better about leaving now. They knew they were leaving their programs in a good spot. Athletically, both programs will have a solid core of players returning. Both programs will enter the 2020 season, even if it happens in a delayed manner, in pretty good shape and with high expectations.


The staff and administration of Pulaski County High School and the Pulaski County School Board have two very big decisions to make. Hopefully, they will be able to make those decisions quickly. We need to find a way to convince the best football coach and the best girls basketball coach out there to take an interest in the Pulaski County jobs.


I won’t venture a guess at who those coaches will be. I’ve always tried to support the coaches, no matter who they are. It’s up to those mentioned above to get us the best. I have no doubt those decision makers want what is best for our teams and our athletes.


With that said, there are some big names that are currently available or, at least, could be if they chose to be. Some of them are veteran coaches with impressive resumes. Some of them are relative newcomers, with the potential to be here for many years to come.


In the end, we can only hope for the best.


In other news, the Virginia High School League announced today that they are beginning to put together plans for the eventual reopening of fall athletics and activities.


After the past few weeks of doom and gloom in the news, seeing a story that is looking forward is good news. Our part of the state has been much less affected than those in the eastern part of the state. It’s unknown what will happen with sports still, but at least for now they are trying to make some plans for it.


Many athletes are still stinging from having their basketball state championship dreams ripped out from under their feet. I can only imagine how they, their coaches and fans felt as they sat there, getting ready for the big game, only to be told to go home. It had to be absolutely heartbreaking.


While I have no inside information that is concrete, I’m guessing that at the very least we may see some impact from this on fall sports. If school openings are delayed in any way, the seasons may be backed up because of that. We could see seasons that are shorter and a playoff setup that involves less teams. At this point, it’s still all a guessing game.


In the meantime, players should continue to get ready. While we can’t get them together back in the gym yet, they can work out of their own. The coaches have been sending workouts out online for the players to do at home. When the games get started, we’ll see very clearly who has been doing them and who hasn’t.


When this all ends, Pulaski County and all of the other teams will get back to some form of a normal life. Hopefully, sports and other entertainment will be a big part of that return to normal sooner rather than later. Nothing can help heal the wounds inflicted by missing out on so many things as much as a big night under the lights at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium. Nothing would feel as good right now as to be at historic Calfee Park to see the Pulaski Yankees take the field.


Keep praying Pulaski County.



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