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LC tells Whitby services not needed in 2-Barger plan

LC tells Whitby services not needed in 2-Barger plan
Having heard widespread rumors of his fate as Lake County boys’ basketball coach, Jimmy Whitby said he went straight to the source for confirmation.
“I asked her if she needed me next year and she said ‘no,’” the now-ex Falcon skipper claimed of a conversation with LC School Superintendent Amy Floyd Monday afternoon.
“I even offered to coach for free.”
While repeated attempts to reach Floyd to confirm the account were unsuccessful, Whitby went on to say he was told by Floyd that Lake County “had decided to go in a different direction” with its boys’ program after nine seasons with Whitby in charge.
The “direction” is Dawn Barger — the wife of new Falcon head football coach David Barger — in what was essentially a package deal for the husband and wife duo to return to the Lake County School System, where they spent four years from 2003-07.
Dawn Barger, who was the head boys’ middle school coach at LC when the Bargers left rural West Tennessee for Chattanooga three years ago, will become what is believed to be just the third female to be the head coach of a boys’ basketball team in Tennessee with her hiring.
Former Obion Central player and girls’ coach Kim (Whipple) Decker — who took and kept the job at Dyersburg for the 2008-09 season — is one of the other two women to be named to that capacity, according to unofficial confirmation by the TSSAA.
Dawn spent this past season as an assistant at Ridgeland (Ga.).
She coached the LC Middle School boys’ team when the Bargers were first in Tiptonville.
David Barger went 28-17 with three playoff appearances in four years during his initial stint with the Lake County football program.
He was 9-21 at Chattanooga Central the last three seasons, taking the Purple Pounders to the playoffs last year for the first time since 2003.
The dismissal of the 65-year-old Whitby — one of the state’s Top 10 coaches victory-wise with more than 850 all-time wins — had been widely speculated over the past few days as Lake County began to court David Barger for its football vacancy.
“I’d heard some things, and I think Amy (Floyd) had caught some heat from the football people in Lake County because they knew they had to make room for Barger’s wife if they expected to get him,” Whitby said. “This had a lot to do with football and the parents that support that program only.
“It’ll be tough for her (Dawn), because coaching boys is different and it’s different coaching high school than it is in junior high. Kim Decker is as fine a coach as there is, and she only did it one year at Dyersburg. I think that tells you something right there.”
Whitby built a cult-like following while compiling a 467-151 (.756) mark and winning the Class 2A state championship in 1985-86 at Obion County Central.
He had winning seasons in 16 of his 19 seasons at Troy and made the state tournament three times there while also posting a trio of 30-win campaigns.
He was suspended, reinstated, then ultimately resigned during a messy ending to his time at OCCHS in July of 2001 and took the Lake County job a day later.
The challenge of rebuilding the once-proud Falcon hoop fortunes took some time, but Whitby’s teams averaged around 25 wins per season during his last seven years at the Green and Gold helm.
During one six-year stretch, his teams were ousted by the eventual Class 1A state champions four times.
Whitby said the widespread general consensus that he prohibits his players from participating in other sports — football, most noted — was untrue.
“I like football. I played football at Union City. I was the head football coach at Fulton County and had the first winning season ever there in my first job,” he insisted. “Last year, we had 16 kids play both sports.
“Sure, with the way all sports have turned into a year-round thing, I think any coach would tell you they’d like to have their kids year-round. A lot of that was blown out of proportion.”
Asked about his physical health, Whitby, who lost his wife Georgianne to cancer last summer and has mourned the death of several close friends in the past several months, said the past 12 months had been taxing on him.
He said he’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by one doctor, but another said he merely had arthritis in his right arm and hand.
“It’s been a tough year, but I’m OK, essentially,” he said. “I’ll leave my heart in Lake County, though, with my wife gone.”
Whitby said he might entertain other coaching offers, but won’t seek out employment.
He insisted he’d not been contacted by any other schools, as has been speculated.
“I’d listen if anybody wanted to talk,” he claimed.
“If they don’t, my daddy is 88 years old and I’ll enjoy taking him to the games and spending time with him where there’s not nearly as much stress. I’ve kept my mother’s house in Obion County. It’s right beside my brother (Bobby), and (youngest son) Denver and (daughter) Heather both live within a few miles. I can spend time with them.”
Whitby, who was essentially working on a part-time contract, said Lake County had agreed to honor his salary through the school year.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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