PERKINSTON, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s the end of an era for Gulf Coast athletics.
Well, really, two eras.
The Bulldogs say goodbye to two longtime head coaches, Kenneth Long and Wendell Weathers, who both announced their retirement on Tuesday (May 28).
“I’ll always cherish this place and the memories that I have,” said Long. “Working with the people that I’ve worked with, it means a lot.”
“Well, it’s meant everything to me because this place has been my entire life,” said Weathers.
Weathers assumed leadership of the Gulf Coast men’s basketball program in 2002 to great success, winning 297 games at a .659 winning percentage, along with 21 straight state tournament appearances.
“In (2011 and 2012) we were fortunate enough to win the State Championship back to back," the MGCCC Athletics Hall of Famer reflected. "It’s hard enough to ever win one of those things one time, much less be able to do it back to back. That’s just a huge credit to our kids and the caliber of players that we’ve been able to have over the years.”
Every step of the way, Wendell looked to uphold the legacy left behind by his father, Bob - who coached his eldest son at Gulf Coast from 1976-78 before later adding him to his staff in 1988.
“It meant everything. I would never be here without him,” Weathers said, fighting back emotions. “He passed away in September and that’s been an adjustment, but he’s meant everything to my career.”
Long is a Gulf Coast-lifer in a different sense, overseeing the Lady Bulldogs for all but one season since the school added fast-pitch softball.
“I think about all the players that put the time in, played hard and made those plays. Those are the kind of memories that I think about,” Long said.
Long’s Lady Bulldogs won an incredible 584 games over 18 years, along with four MACJC and four Region 23 titles.
With a newly-renovated stadium in tow, Long thinks the program is in good hands moving forward.
“Maybe that’s kind of why I had the feeling it was time to step away because it is in a good position with the new stadium, and I felt like, you know, this might be the year to step away," Long said. "(The program is) in great shape, we’ve had another successful campaign, and this is just a great time.”
Even though both coaches may no longer roam the sidelines, you can expect to see them in the stands supporting Gulf Coast as strongly as they ever have.
“(It would) probably be hard for me to sit here and be quiet, you know?” Weathers joked. “I would tell everybody that this is a great place. It has been all my life, it’s gonna get better. I would tell everybody, hey, come be a part of it.”