After 20 years as a boys’ basketball coach at Atherton, Male, Shelby County and Bryan Station, Champ Ligon Jr. made the switch to the girls’ game this season.
From all indications, he’s loving it.
“I should have made the jump a long time ago,” he said.
Ligon has enjoyed a remarkable run in his first season as the girls’ coach at Male, which won a game in the Louisville Invitational Tournament for the first time in 13 years and on Wednesday captured its first district tournament title since 1994.
That success earned him the Seventh Region Coach of the Year award. He received four votes in a poll of the region’s coaches. Ballard’s Frank Wright was the runner-up with three votes.
“It’s quite an honor, considering I don’t think half of them even know who I am,” Ligon said with a laugh. “It’s such a hard region with a lot of great coaches.”
Butler’s Larry Just was named Sixth Region Coach of the Year, receiving seven votes. North Bullitt’s Amber Courtney was the runner-up with four.
Ligon was an assistant boys’ coach at Manual last season and started considering switching to the girls’ game when Stacy Pendleton announced he was stepping down as the Lady Crimsons’ job. Manual eventually hired Jeff Sparks away from Male, and Ligon jumped at the chance to coach the Lady Bulldogs.
“Everywhere I’ve coached I’ve been a builder … and this was a new challenge,” said Ligon, who earned statewide boys’ Coach of the Year honors from The C-J while at Bryan Station in 2008. “There was a concern switching to girls because I guess I have a reputation of being a hard-core coach, but it’s been exciting. The girls have really bought in.”
The Lady Bulldogs are 20-9 after beating Assumption 55-32 in Wednesday’s 26th District final and will host a Seventh Region Tournament first-round game Monday.
Just has led Butler to a 24-3 record and the No. 3 spot in The Courier-Journal’s Litenhous Ratings entering Friday night’s 22nd District final at Iroquois. The Bearettes also won the LIT this season.
Just said the success has been a bit of a surprise, especially with so many freshmen playing significant roles.
“What surprised me is how these kids have come together,” he said. “When you start putting seniors together with freshmen … you never know how that’s all going to jell. They’ve gotten together well all year long.”