When Mark Newton took over as the head coach of the Lauderdale County varsity boys basketball team, then-coach Ted Talley left the program in solid shape for him.
Newton wants to do the same for someone else, and with that in mind he has decided he won’t return next year as the team’s head coach.
Newton has been on the coaching staff at LCHS for 28 years, the last 12 years as the head coach of the varsity boys team.
“It’s kind of been something I’ve been planning for a few years,” Newton said. “It’s still a hard decision to make.
“When you’ve done something your whole career, it’s hard to step away from it."
Lauderdale County has not yet announced a new coach.
“You’ve got to have a certain amount of energy and a certain amount of drive. My tank’s a little empty,” Newton said. “We’ve asked all these kids for years and years give us everything you’ve got.”
Lauderdale County has remained a competitive boys basketball program while Newton has been in charge, particularly in recent years. He led this year’s team to a tie for its best finish in team history, a runner-up appearance in the Class 3A state championship.
The Tigers also made the 2018 Class 3A state tournament, falling in the semifinals, and they were regulars at the Northwest Regional.
Newton credited his players through the years for the work they did, as well as assistants Whitney Owens and Brett Sinyard with helping set the program up for success. Owens is the B-team coach and Sinyard coaches the junior high program.
“That stability, man, it’s just a world of difference,” Newton said.
Newton said with those two running practice for the younger players, he’s never had to wonder what was being taught and if it aligned with the program’s overall goals.
“I knew it was taken care of,” Newton said. “It’s kind of like we’re brothers.”
Newton has taught at Lauderdale County for 28 years and works in special education. He said he still thinking and praying over his decision on whether to return to that job this fall.
Newton also credited his family for allowing him to coach given the long nights for everyone.
“It can be tough. It's a grind,” he said.
His wife, Bridgette, keeps the scorebook every game. His sons, Drew and Wyatt, played for him.
Newton’s daughter, Grace, coached girls basketball coach at Decatur. Wyatt was an assistant with the Lauderdale County boys team this past year.
Newton said he’s open to being an assistant coach at some point, but doesn’t know when that would be.
The Tigers must replace seniors Connor Smith, Juvonne Shanes, Luke McIntyre, Daniel Romine, Blade Wisdom and Mason Hafner.
But point guard Eric Fuqua returns after a breakout sophomore season and other young players, such as Holden Stanfield, Xavier Mitchell and Nathan Grisham, saw significant minutes in postseason games.
Newton said this year’s group didn’t bring any jealousy, and he said that’s a credit to the way their parents raised them.
“It’s been a great place to coach,” Newton said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”