Trips to the mall helped Robert E. Lee land its newest head boys basketball coach.
Jeff Coleman was approved earlier this week and met his fellow coaches and the media Friday morning at a press conference at Suddenlink Communications Field House.
“I’ve been down in this area for about four years and my family, we would be driving down here on the highway going to the mall and I would always look over here at Robert E. Lee,” Coleman said. “For some reason it just caught my attention and I told everyone at Kilgore that the only job I would be interested in would be a job here at Robert E. Lee.
“And for some reason with the blessings of the good Lord, it happened for me.”
Coleman comes to Lee after four years at Kilgore where he turned around a program that hadn’t won a playoff game in 30 years into one with three-straight postseason trips, culminating in the Bulldogs reaching the regional semifinals this past season.
Prior to that, Coleman spent 20 years at Idabel High School in Idabel, Oklahoma, delivering the Warriors their only state championship in school in history in 2005 as part of numerous long playoff runs.
Coleman has received nine Coach of the Year awards, been a state runner-up three times, a semifinalist and four-time quarterfinalist in other years.
It is all part of a 32-year coaching résumé that now has landed the former Murray State and Eastern State University Hall of Fame player with the Red Raiders.
Lee head football coach and athletic coordinator Darrell Piske said Coleman is the right man for the job and he feels fortunate to have him in the Rose City.
“What I like about him is he’s a man of faith and man of integrity first and he’s a first-class guy,” Piske said. “Everyone I called about him, ‘A man of integrity’ was the first words everyone said about him.”
Coleman takes over for Alan Johnston, who resigned recently after 10 years as coach of Lee. The Red Raiders snapped a five-year postseason appearance drought in 2013, but haven’t won a playoff game since 2007.
“We are going to try and instill that attitude of competitive competition,” said Coleman, who surpassed 500 wins as head coach last season at Kilgore. “We want attitude first of all. We want our kids to believe that we can be successful.
“We’re going to implement a lot of hard work and a very deliberate, patient-type offense with a rigid, tough man-to-man defense. We want to be able to control the tempo of the game and give our kids the chance to be the best that they can be.”
Lee finished district play with a 4-8 record and was 16-12 overall. The Red Raiders are graduating most of the varsity roster, with junior Rico Major returning after earning second-team all-district honors.
The Lee JV went 22-3 and many of those players are expected to move up and be a part of Coleman’s first team in 2014-15.
Since 1991, the furthest Lee boys basketball has advance in the playoffs is two rounds.
Coleman plans to change that and stresses this is not a one-year success plan.
“We are going to be a playoff-bound type team each year,” Coleman said. “And each year we are going to go deeper and deeper into the playoffs. That’s my goal. That’s my dream. That’s why I am here.”