Thomas Billups’ says his run as Lanier boys basketball coach appears to be over.
Jackson Public School officials aren’t saying much at all.
Billups, one of the most successful coaches in state history, told The Clarion-Ledger he was not one of the candidates interviewed for the position that he says he was surprisingly removed from in early June.
Candidates were interviewed on Monday, but Billups says he was told by new Lanier principal Elbert Smith that he wouldn’t be interviewed.
“I asked him ‘Was I not good enough to be interviewed?,'” said Billups. “He told me he can’t answer that and I asked him what the problem is and he didn’t give me an answer. I have never been caught up in anything and I have been getting good evaluations since I have been there. So I am just trying to figure out what the problem is.”
Smith declined to comment when reached on the telephone Tuesday evening.
Jackson Public Schools athletic director Clinton Johnson declined to comment as well.
“We are leaving it up to the spokesperson of the school district,” said Johnson.
Sherwin Johnson, executive director of public and media relations for the school district, said “JPS doesn’t comment on personnel matters. That’s the statement we are sticking by.”
None of the school officials would confirm the position was open or if interviews were conducted, but several coaches confirmed they interviewed for the job on Monday, including Lanier girls basketball coach Jonas James and former Raymond boys coach Willie Neal.
Billups has been retired from the school system for “four to five” years and taught two P.E. classes at Lanier each day as well as coaching basketball.
He said he was told in early June that the school district didn’t want to bring back any retired teachers.
In order to get his job back, Billups said he decided to come out of retirement and was willing to teach full-time again.
“I didn’t want them to have any excuses, so I checked to make sure I had my teacher certification, CPR and everything,” said Billups. “I haven’t done anything wrong. They haven’t told me anything. The alumni, the community and booster club don’t want me to leave.”
Billups has coached at Lanier since 1991, winning eight state championships and reaching the title game five other times. He has a 617-130 record and was named The Clarion-Ledger’s State Coach of the Year three times and Metro Coach of the Year six times.
“We are every upset about it,” said Jackie Burns, president of the booster club. “It wasn’t handled correctly. They didn’t do it fairly and they won’t give us a reason. How can you not give an interview to a man that has built this program.”