Cookson, Heeb insist newest Brave won't be them

Sunday, March 31, 2002

The school with the most successful boys basketball program in Missouri history has a figurative 'help wanted' sign hanging on its gymnasium door.

Steve Wells, who coached the Scott County Central program for the past three years, will not return next year and mystery shrouds his successor.

The Braves own a Missouri record 12 state titles under local legend Ron Cookson, but have fallen on relatively hard times, not even winning a district title since 1995.

At one point, Cookson led Scott County Central to seven consecutive Class 1A titles (1985-91), with two of the teams going undefeated. He led the Braves to their last title in 1993 and ended his productive 25-year reign in 1995.

Todd Porter followed Cookson with a four-year stay, going 66-44, and Wells went 44-32 in his three years, but was just two games over .500 the past two seasons.

Superintendent Ray Shoaf said there are 20 applicants for the position and interviews will be set up after the upcoming elections.

"We hope to have someone signed on the dotted line by April 15," Shoaf said.

While it will be interesting to see who will be the next coach, it's just as interesting to see who will not be roaming the sideline.

There's been speculation of Cookson, 57, returning. There's also been talk of one of his prized pupils, Bell City coach David Heeb, going back to his alma mater.

While both share concerns about the program, Cookson and Heeb dispelled rumors by saying they are not interested in the job.

"They're all just saying that," Cookson said, still living in Morley, Mo., and trying to stay retired. "I've had my little do. I miss working with the kids, but I don't miss the game situations and everything that goes with it."

Wouldn't he like to attempt to restore the past glory?

"I'd like to, but I think I'll just stay clear," he said.

Not even that Michael Jordan smidgen of 0.1 percent?

"I'm sure," he said. "I'm retired. I wouldn't mind helping if they need some help. Whoever gets the job, if they need to pick a little brain, they can pick my brain whenever they want to. But as far as really doing it, I really don't have a lot of interest in it."

All eyes then naturally turn to Heeb, a 1996 graduate of Central.

And he's definitely a coach with a bright future. At just 23, Heeb led nearby Bell City to a 29-5 record and its first 1A state title in just his second year at the school.

"I love that school," Heeb said of Scott County Central. "I think everyone who graduates from there, it's like a feeling of one big family. It's not too often a guy who graduated in the mid-70's can say he played for the same coach as the guy that graduated in the mid-90's. We all played for the same guy and had to go through the same stuff. It's just kind of a special place."

That said, he's staying put in Bell City.

"I'm not going anywhere," Heeb said. "No doubt about it."

Heeb said he already has a contract signed to stay at the school for another season.

Further review needed

While the private school 1.35 multiplier amendment made the Missouri State High School Athletic Association's spring ballot, the group's board of directors is requesting members not adopt it just yet.

On the MSHSAA Web site (mshsaa.org), the board acknowledges a multiplier may be needed to address the differences in public and nonpublic school counts, but calls for discussion and increased understanding of the amendment.

The multiplier amendment made the ballot through the petition process. A simple majority vote is needed by the 573 MSHSAA members to enact the multiplier.

The coaching carousel

New Madrid County Central has, as expected, officially promoted assistant David Fields into the coaching position for boys basketball. Fields replaces Joby Holland, who served as a one-year bridge after Lennies McFerren resigned after leading the Eagles to two straight Class 3A state titles. Under Holland, Central lost to MICDS in this year's state championship game.

In other coaching moves: Mike Thebeau resigned as Farmington football coach and has been replaced by John Bacon of Ste. Genevieve Valle; Ken Lathum is the new East Prairie football coach; Shane Benson resigned as Doniphan boys basketball coach to take the same position at Senath-Hornersville; Ashley McMillian left his boys basketball position at Malden to become assistant principal; Richland basketball coach Jimmy Lincoln has left that position; and basketball coach Andy Pinkley resigned at Risco.

Jeff Breer is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian

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