Beesley steps down from Green Wave football

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 31, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Nearly 40 years ago, Ken Beesley arrived in Natchez to teach math at Cathedral.

Ten years later, Beesley would be named the head football, baseball and basketball coach of the Green Wave.

Twenty-nine seasons and 203 football wins later, Beesley told principal Pat Sanguinetti and athletic director Roy Garcia that he was ready to step down as head football coach of Cathedral.

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Beesley, who gave up his position as basketball coach in the 1980s and as baseball coach three years ago, said he had been thinking about leaving the sidelines for some time.

&8220;I&8217;ve been thinking about it for about three years,&8221; Beesley said. &8220;I decided this was the right time.&8221;

Beesley recommended that his son, Craig, take his place, and that recommendation has been taken, Garcia said.

&8220;(Mr. Sanguinetti) has offered Craig the job,&8221; Garcia said. &8220;We&8217;re excited.&8221;

&8220;It&8217;s time for Craig to have his shot at it,&8221; Ken Beesley said. &8220;I&8217;ve had my time at it. I&8217;ll probably teach two or three more years (before retirement).&8221;

Craig Beesley said Saturday he would begin official negotiations for the head coaching job after the new year, but he planned to take it.

After coming to teach at Cathedral in 1969 and beginning his coaching career in 1971, Ken Beesley served as an assistant under Garcia and current ACCS coach Bobby Marks before assuming the head coaching position in 1978.

The Green Wave won several district and region titles in all sports during his tenure, a state title in baseball and a South State title in football in 1993.

Beesley, who went to Mississippi State on a baseball scholarship, said there were plenty of memories made during his years roaming the halls, gyms, fields and dugouts of the school.

&8220;In 1980, that was the team that really got our record rolling good. We went 10-2, and we beat Raymond, who was picked No. 1 preseason, and we beat them in the first game of the year. That was my first big win. We won region or district several times. Another highlight was, of course, 1993 when we went all the way to the championship (game). We beat Mt. Olive, Scott Central and Lake and then lost to Smithville.

&8220;In 1988, we didn&8217;t make the playoffs, but we made a bowl game. That was a highlight. Craig was on the team, and he and Christopher Garcia were seniors. Craig was our quarterback, and he broke his hand. Christopher ended up having to play quarterback and he won offensive MVP, and Craig ended up playing safety with a broken hand and he won defensive MVP. We beat East Webster in that game. But every season has its memories, and I could name a few from every season.&8221;

Beesley said in the time he had thought about walking away from the game, he had hoped to go out on a high note, and this season, coming off a 7-4 record and a playoff berth, seemed like the perfect time to do so.

&8220;I thought about leaving after last year, but I didn&8217;t feel like we had a very good season and I wanted to go out on a better year than that,&8221; he said. &8220;This year, I have no regrets about anything that they accomplished. We really surprised some people. No one thought we would do as well as we did. To be honest with you, I didn&8217;t think we&8217;d do that well, either. They worked hard and they wanted it. They were willing to want it and worked hard. They really weren&8217;t that talented but as a group they played well.&8221;

Garcia said the Green Wave coaching staff also had a hand in keeping him around for another year.

&8220;He almost did it last year, and us coaches got together and talked to him and talked him out of it,&8221; Garcia said. &8220;We knew one of his goals was winning his 200th game and we knew if he went one more year he could get it. After that he determined he was going to step down. He decided he was getting a little tired and wanted to relax a little bit. He&8217;s still got that fire. This season showed it.&8221;

And, after 36 seasons of coaching, a rest is deserved, at least when you&8217;ve put up the kind of results he has, Craig Beesley said.

&8220;The main thing that he&8217;s given the program is consistency. He&8217;s always put a competitive team on the field. We&8217;ve always had some up and downs, but he&8217;s put a competitive team on the field. I just hope that I can continue to be as consistent as he ways and be there for those kids the way he was.&8221;

Garcia said that in all the years of coaching he&8217;s spent with Beesley, the main trait he has

found has been his skill as a motivator.

&8220;I&8217;ve been with him 36 years,&8221; he said. &8220;He&8217;s a great Christian man and he&8217;s a great teacher. He&8217;s a great motivator. He does a great job in all the endeavors he has at the school. He&8217;s a motivator and a disciplinarian and he knows how to motivate kids. We&8217;ve been through a lot together. It won&8217;t be the same without him.&8221;

Motivating his players was what Ken Beesley strove to do, and what he ultimately feels like will be his legacy.

&8220;Usually, we don&8217;t have the talent that the top teams do. It&8217;s always going to be tough to get to the state championship here. My kids &8212; they worked. My goal has been not necessarily to win, to get a championship, but (have the players) play the best they can and maybe a little better. I feel like I&8217;ve done quite well in that area.

&8220;I feel like I&8217;ve been a positive role model for most of my kids. I know they all respect me and look up to me. We&8217;ve had some good athletes and good players. I don&8217;t know a team I&8217;ve coached that didn&8217;t give me everything they have. I think they learned lessons they can apply for the rest of their life.&8221;

Craig Beesley said he hopes to be able to say many of the same things years from now.

&8220;When I get to 10 or 15 years from now, I want to say I did the best I could and hopefully be competitive and win a few region and district championships.&8221;

In more than a generation of coaching, plenty of people cross through a life, and Ken Beesley said he&8217;d like to take a moment to thank those who helped him along the way.

&8220;I would like to thank all my former players, coaches, parents, school staff and the Cathedral Athletic Association for all their support during my career,&8221; he said.