After a dozen years, Northwest High’s girls basketball program will be making a change.
Ben Wallace had been the longest tenured coach on the girls’ side of the hardwood in Montgomery County, but Wallace resigned from his position this past spring, becoming the fifth girls basketball coach inside the county to resign. Wallace moves over to the boys’ side and will serve as an assistant coach on Vincent Turner’s staff.
But Northwest has pulled from the deep coaching pool within the city, hiring former Rossview girls assistant coach Kelly Parker to become the new Lady Vikings head coach.
“Getting a chance to coach at Northwest will be a great opportunity for me,” Parker said. “I’m really excited about it and I know the girls are excited about it and we can’t wait to get started.”
Former Rossview head coach Becky Padgett was one of those five coaches to step down when she resigned her post last month. Parker, the mother of a 9-month old, actually resigned as the Lady Hawks assistant before Padgett stepped away, citing the difficulty between living close to the Houston County line, teaching at New Providence and coaching at Rossview. Accepting the Northwest coaching position, as well as the school’s Lifestyles, Health and P.E. teaching post, will cut down on that travel.
“It’s just an easier transition for me,” Parker said. “With a baby and all the travel, I resigned at Rossview because it was too much. Coaching and teaching at Northwest keeps me from having to drive all around Montgomery County.”
And Parker’s ties to New Providence, where most students eventually graduate to Northwest High, is an added advantage.
“We’ll have about ten freshmen on this team this fall,” Parker said. “And I coached just about all of them at the middle school level so I know many of them. I already have a relationship with those kids and hopefully that will make the leap from middle to high school basketball easier for them.”
Parker takes over a program that has struggled for nearly a decade. Wallace dominated District 10-AAA girls basketball in the early part of the last decade.
He won three straight district titles in 2001, 2002 and and 2003, led by Lady Vikings’ legend Ashley Haynes. The 2003 squad advanced to the state basketball tournament in Murfreesboro, but after Haynes’ graduation the talent level never quite reached that level again.
“It’s bittersweet,” Northwest athletics director Shane Smith said. “I’ve worked with Ben for a long time and he’s been a fixture here at Northwest. He’s been so dedicated to Northwest athletics that it’s hard to watch someone change direction but at the same time we’re excited to turn the program over to Kelly who is hungry and who has served her time as an assistant.”
Parker is hoping to change the culture at Northwest and help to remind the program of those early Wallace years.
“We’ve got to show these girls that they can win,” Parker said.
“I know that the district isn’t as top-heavy as it has been in the past five years or so, so that will allow us to be a bit more competitive.”
But Parker also knows that with an extremely young group, her Lady Vikings may struggle next season. She probably start a freshman and sophomore in the post and possibly another freshman in the frontcourt.
“My backcourt will be juniors and seniors, but we’re going to be young,” Parker said.
“We may take a thumping early, but we’re going to learn as well.
“We’re going to learn what it takes to win and eventually we’ll be the team that is on top of the district. That’s our goal right now.”
The Houston County native — who played high school basketball for LaDonna McClain at Montgomery Central, graduating in 2003 — said she learned a lot about how to operate a team by spending two seasons under Becky and Duane Padgett at Rossview. The Lady Hawks won 20 or more games in each of the last three years.
“The first thing we have to do at Northwest is to bring back the pride in the program,” Parker said.
“We have to have pride in Northwest basketball and in ourselves. We cannot be satisfied with just being mediocre or just average.”
Parker played one season at Murray State before ending her basketball career and graduating from Murray a year early.
She taught at Hopkinsville High School in 2007 before taking a teaching job at New Providence that included becoming the head coach of the boys’ middle school team. She took over the girls middle school team the next season and then joined Padgett at Rossview in 2011.
* In addition to hiring Parker as the new girls coach, Northwest solidified its football coaching staff as Chris Austin hired Vernon Wright, Barrett Crane and Charles Bruce as assistants. The Vikings also hired a new soccer coach in Randall Davis and volleyball coach, Matthew Spinella.