Mark Edwards: Anniston's girls team wants a ring for Bullock
by Mark Edwards
Feb 20, 2014 | 2381 views |  0 comments | 51 51 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston coach Eddie Bullock, with junior Taliyah Knox (12), has taken three teams to the Final Four. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Anniston coach Eddie Bullock, with junior Taliyah Knox (12), has taken three teams to the Final Four. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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JACKSONVILLE -- Anniston High's Eddie Bullock considers himself a football coach, and he is a pretty good one.

In 2010, his first season as head football coach at Anniston, he took the Bulldogs to the state quarterfinals for the first time in 13 years. The following season, he had Anniston in the state semifinals.

But he is a basketball coach, too, and he is pretty good at that, as well. Just ask his star player this year, Quanetria Bolton, who has signed with Alabama. She calls him a "father figure" and says her team wants to get to the Class 4A Final Four in Birmingham and win a state title for him.

"He's never won it before," Bolton said. "He's gotten to Birmingham twice, but he hasn't won it. As a senior, I want us to give him his first (state) championship."

Mention Bolton's comments to Bullock -- as a visitor did after Anniston's 52-22 rout of Randolph in the Class 4A Northeast Regional semifinals -- and he just drops his head, smiles and talks about how this isn't about him but the players and the team.

This isn't where Bullock thought he would be at this point in his life. He didn't think he would be coaching girls basketball and loving it.

Bullock, 50, a former Anniston High sports standout in the 1980s, didn't even get into coaching after graduation. He worked in management for Burger King and Tyson before accepting a job at Anniston High in 2000. He started by serving as an assistant football coach and the junior varsity basketball coach.

Five years later, he was asked if he would take over the girls basketball team.

He said no.

He was asked again. He said no again. He kept saying no. He said he had no desire to coach girls.

Then Marquita McMurray, a rising junior on the Anniston girls team, apparently had a charm the Anniston administration lacked. She asked, and he relented. He agreed to do it for two years -- McMurray's remaining two seasons on the Anniston varsity.

Nine years later, he is still at it with no plans to quit.

"I love them to death," Bullock said. "That first group of girls, I fell in love with them. Then another group came along, and I fell in love with them. I still fall in love with them every year."

He said he tries to treat his football players and girls basketball players with the same passion. He yells at both "about the same." Bolton said when Bullock yells, they know it's to emphasize a point they need to know and not out of meanness.

"Coaching girls, I had to get used to the crying," Bullock said. "I had to get used to parents getting on me for fussing at the players. But I don't view them as girls or females -- they're basketball players.

"A coach is a coach, and I coach boys and girls hard."

He has gotten tantalizingly close to state championships before. All nine of his Anniston teams have made regionals, and including this year, five have made the finals. His 2006 won regionals and made it to the state semifinals. McMurray was the regional MVP for that squad. The 2009 squad reached the state finals before falling.

His current team is 23-5, but is unbeaten against Class 4A teams. The five losses have come to 5A and 6A teams.

He said he doesn't pressure himself about winning a state title. He figures if it's meant to happen, it will happen.

That's what he has been told by his old coach at Anniston, Jack Doss, who has won seven state basketball titles combined at Hayes and Butler.

"He says we'll win one sooner or later," Bullock said, before smiling and adding, "He's has seven, so he knows how to win."

To win one this year, Anniston would have to corral three of its toughest wins of the year -- Saturday's region finals, the state semifinals, and the state finals. But according to Bolton, if that happens, the players would start the celebration by congratulating their coach.

Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at medwards@annistonstar.com. Follow on Twitter at @MarkSportsStar.

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