Heeb to coach his alma mater

Friday, April 1, 2005

After leading Bell City to two state titles, Heeb will take over the Scott County Central program.

David Heeb is heading back to his alma mater.

After winning two Class 1 state championships in five years at Bell City, Heeb on Wednesday signed a contract to become the boys basketball coach at Scott County Central, beginning in the 2005-06 school year.

Heeb, who also will be athletic director, replaces Melvin Porter, whose contract was not renewed earlier this month following three years as the coach of the Braves.

Bell City ended Scott County Central's seasons each of the last two years in the state sectional round. The Cubs finished fourth in the state this year after winning the title in the 2003-04 and 2001-02 seasons.

Heeb posted a 120-37 record in his five seasons at Bell City, where he also was the athletic director.

"It was a really tough decision because my relationship with the kids at Bell City is very good," Heeb said Thursday in a phone interview. "I'm really trading one good situation for another. There was no reason I wanted to leave Bell City.

"This is about a lot more than just basketball for me. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at a place I've always dreamed about. Coach [Ronnie] Cookson is here, and if I can restore the program, it will mean a lot to a lot of people who helped me get to where I'm at."

Heeb played basketball at Scott County Central, where he graduated in 1996 before attending Southeast Missouri State. He played for Cookson, the legendary coach whose 12 state championships in 25 seasons from 1970-71 to 1994-95 still ranks No. 1 in state history, before finishing his career under Todd Porter.

Heeb and his family reside in the Scott County Central district.

The Braves, whose last state title came in 1993, were unable to win another district championship after Cookson's departure until Melvin Porter guided the team to back-to-back district crowns the last two years. The Braves were 20-9 this year for Porter's lone winning season, the program's first 20-win campaign since 1995. But Porter, whose record was 44-38 in three seasons, also was placed on administrative leave twice in three years.

"Melvin Porter got the pride back and got the kids thinking about the right things," said Heeb, who said Porter is a friend of his.

While Porter was getting Scott County Central back on track, Heeb had a powerhouse up and running at Bell City. He has had all-state players each of the last four seasons, and in each of those years Bell City was among the last 16 teams standing in the state in Class 1.

This year's Cubs had one senior and started four juniors and a freshman. The senior, A.J. Henry, battled Hodgkin's disease. Heeb took a team with four freshmen playing prominent roles to a 21-11 season, including a 67-58 sectional victory against Scott County Central that was Bell City's only win in four meetings between the two schools.

Heeb said this year's team faced more adversity than any other. But the program, he said, should be in great shape for his replacement.

"I think the program is in better shape than any time I've been here," he said. "I hope they get a coach who will work hard because these kids are willing to work hard.

"We had a little heart to heart [Wednesday], and there was a lot of emotion on both sides. It was probably one of the hardest things I've had to do. But they have a lot to look forward to."

One of those things may be more playoff meetings with Scott County Central.

"There's always going to be talent at Scott County," Heeb said. "In the last 10 years, they've had five all-state caliber players who moved away, and a couple of those players moved to Bell City. We've got to get the community and the school back in order so kids stay here."

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