Former coach Annette Watts has resigned to take a high school coaching job in her home county. Patrick Fraley, the principal of Greeneville High
School, confirmed to The Anniston Star on Tuesday he has hired Watts as a math teacher and girls basketball coach at the East Tennessee school where
Watts was once an assistant.
JSU assistant coaches Jason Williams and Yvette Sparks will continue to handle the program’s day-to-day operations as the search mounts, but neither will be named interim coach. Sparks deferred comment to the JSU administration. Athletics director Warren Koegel said the plan is to work up a job description today and then start forming a search committee.
The Gamecocks aren’t expected to use an outside agency to help with the search. Koegel said the athletics department already has received inquiries about the opening.
Watts first approached Koegel “absolutely positive” about wanting to resign
Monday, but the AD said he didn’t know anything about the Greeneville job until contacted by a reporter Tuesday morning.
Watts declined to comment when reached by The Star earlier in the day. When contacted later, she said she “can’t say any more than the JSU release” -- a five-paragraph announcement distributed at the end of the business day.
She leaves after three 20-loss seasons with two years remaining on her contract, the terms of which are now forgiven.
Fraley, meanwhile, was ecstatic about landing someone with Watts’ experience.
"I hired her initially as a math teacher and didn't have a coaching position," he said. "She was interested in coming home when we posted the math position, and it kind of worked out where I thought it'd be the best move for our program to give her the reins of the basketball program as well."
Fraley said he and Watts had been talking for the last couple weeks. He declined to say if Watts had any concerns regarding her future at JSU.
Watts’ teams had won only five games over the past two seasons and her most recent team went 1-27. The program has won more than 15 games only once since 1993 -- before it had Division I status -- and has endured eight straight losing seasons that has spanned through three coaches.
"I just know she expressed some interest in coming home, and we're tickled to death she did," Fraley said. "It's a great opportunity for us.
"It's not every day a AA high school with 850 kids gets a Division I girls basketball coach who wants to come there."
It is a homecoming of sorts for Watts, who becomes her new school's third girls basketball coach in the last four years.
She was an assistant coach in the city’s school system for eight years after graduating from East Tennessee State.
She came to JSU after nine years at Davidson, where she was the program's winningest coach.
She hoped the opportunity to attract more athletic players would enhance her chances for success here. It just didn't happen.
She won her first two games at JSU but lost at least 20 games each of her three seasons, with an overall record of 15-73.
Her team was 4-25 two years ago and 1-27 last season. The Gamecocks won only two OVC games in those years.
This year's team lost its first 26 games, finally beating Southeast Missouri in its final home game, the next-to-last game of the season. It snapped a 36-game losing streak, dating back to the previous season.
“She just kept looking at it and wondering (if) this was in the best interest for the team and her and moving on,” Koegel said. “She made the decision.
“Prior to that, she was going to be our coach, and we had talked about all the things we had to get better at -- not just on the basketball floor, but with school and all that goes with that. We had numerous conversations about that. At this point there wasn’t any decision to get rid of her. She came in and decided she wanted to resign and pursue other opportunities.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.