GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - West Harrison basketball coach Doug Bazzell has decided it's time to step away from coaching after 30 years of leading multiple programs on the coast.
Bazzell, 60, has spent the past five years at West Harrison High School, leading the Hurricanes to a 106-32 record in his tenure. He and assistant coach Gary Blaize led the Canes to back-to-back 5A south state tournament appearances during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
"It's hard to believe it's been 30 years because it's gone by so fast," Bazzell said. "I reminisce on all the kids I've had from the first time I started coaching in 1984. You always have a special bond with kids when you're dealing with athletics."
Bazzell will finish out the 2013-14 school year at West Harrison High School. Along with his work at Harrison County School District's newest high school, he helped initiate turnarounds at D'Iberville, Bay, Ocean Springs and St. Martin. However, he credits the athletes' determination and winning mindset as the reasons toward reversal of fortune.
"It's tough to leave but you're in this for the kids," Bazzell said. "That's going to be the hard part. I want them to do well, graduate and advance. That's the key."
Bazzell's approachable attitude helped sustain many friendships over time. That persona is one reason why he received phone calls from five of his former players congratulating him on his expected retirement.
"That was a good feeling," Bazzell said. "They're adults with kids now. It was a plus to hear from them and have them congratulate me on 30 years.
"Growing up on the coast and playing athletics was important from day one. We live and breathe sports. It carried over from my coaches to me. I hope it carries over from myself to my players."