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Gardner selected to lead BA Lady Cougars

Mack Gardner has been chosen from a large list of applicants to coach the girls basketball program at Brookhaven Academy. On Friday, BA athletic director Tripp McCarty made the announcement.

“I feel like we hit a home run,” said McCarty. “Coach Gardner is young but he has a lot of basketball wisdom. We are excited to have him on our staff.”

Gardner, 25, replaces Bruce Allsup who coached the Lady Cougars for one season, posting a 9-21 worksheet. Allsup,51, elected to return to his home in Columbus, where his wife and children reside.

Gardner said he was impressed with Brookhaven Academy and its facilities. He currently is completing his responsibilities as an assistant women’s coach at Southern Miss on the staff of Joye Lee-McNelis.

“I just thought Coach McCarty had a great vision of what an athletic program is supposed to be like,” said Gardner. “They already have a brand. I thought it would be neat to expand that brand.”

BA’s John R. Gray Gymnasium is considered to be one of the best facilities in the private school ranks. It often serves as the location for MAIS State and South State Tournaments.

Gardner, a Lexington, Tenn. native, said he plans to meet his new team Monday, plus visit with students and parents. He is in his second year as an assistant at Southern Miss.

He was a volunteer coach at Tennessee-Martin before moving to USM.

A 2006 Lexington High School graduate, he attended Tennessee-Martin and majored in physical education. He earned his undergraduate degree there and recently obtained his masters degree at Southern Miss in sport coaching/education.

Gardner, a former point guard, holds the Tennessee state record for assists (787) during his high school career in Lexington. He also played football, golf and tennis.

His father, Tim Gardner, retires next month after 30 years in high school coaching.

Asked about his basketball philosophy, Gardner said, “I like to see my team share the ball and use the Princeton offense. We play a couple of different things on defense.”

He was a student-assistant at Tenn-Martin for two years and a volunteer assistant at a high school.

Gardner is the third new head coach in as many years at BA, since legendary boss Barry Gray departed for Southern Baptist Education Center in Southaven in 2011 after winning an MAIS Overall Tournament title. Ginger Duease replaced Gray and coached one season, followed by Allsup.

“We are very fortunate to get him,” said McCarty. “We feel like he will be a good head coach. He comes to us highly recommended. He will energize our program.”

McCarty said Gardner will teach health at BA. His main focus in athletics will be girls basketball.

BA Hunts Boys Coach

Since the sudden resignation of BA boys basketball coach Dale Watts Wednesday, the search is on for his replacement. Watts coached the Cougars for 19 years and won 7 state championships before accepting a lucrative offer from Columbia Academy.

McCarty said there is high interest in the vacancy. “I think I’ve received 15 inquires since Coach Watts indicated that he was leaving us.”