Tullahoma High School is looking for a new head baseball coach.
Phillip King announced Tuesday that he would be stepping aside as head coach, effective immediately.
“Obviously first, I’d like to thank, at the time it was [former Tullahoma Director of City Schools] Dr. Dan Lawson, [former THS Athletic Director] Jerry Mathis and THS Principal Kathy Rose for giving me the opportunity,” King said. “Coach Mathis is a legend in Tennessee. For him to give me that opportunity based on thinking that I was capable, that means the world to me. You have to thank those people who gave you the opportunity.”
On Tuesday morning, King addressed a letter to Rose, thanking her for the last four years. According to THS Athletic Director John Olive, there had been “ongoing discussions” about King leaving his position. However, he wanted to thank King for the last four seasons.
“We have accepted the resignation of Coach King as our high school baseball coach,” Olive said in a statement to The News. “We would like to thank Coach King for his four years of hard work with our baseball program. We wish Coach King the very best in his future. We will try to find the very best candidate for our baseball program, which has been the flagship program of our athletic program for the last 40-50 years.”
King took over the Tullahoma High School baseball program in the summer of 2015, replacing Brad White, who left to take over the same position at his alma mater Lawrence County. This past season was the Wildcats best year under King as far as wins and losses, finishing with an overall record of 18-15.
Tullahoma was able to make it into the District 8-AAA Tournament in 2019, but saw its season end with back-to-back losses. The Wildcats' year ended with a 3-0 loss to Shelbyville in Fayetteville on May 5.
In his four years at Tullahoma, Tullahoma steadily improved its record every season, but finished 4-8 against District 8-AAA opponents in 2019. His team’s also improved every year in major categories, including ERA, batting average and fielding percentage.
In 2019, the Wildcats’ pitching staff had an ERA of 3.17, while the lineup batted .275 and had a fielding percentage of .949. Both the ERA and fielding percentage were the highest for Tullahoma in the last four seasons.
“In the four years that I’ve been here, there were things that we were trying to do. We were trying to get into a position where we were winning district titles and competing for region titles. It didn’t happen.
“I feel like we improved in a lot of areas… we got better in baseball aspects. Along with that, we built a program and culture that was based on simple characteristics: Pride, dignity, class, hustle, accountability and discipline… At this time, it’s probably just best to step aside and allow somebody else to step in. Whoever it is, hopefully they will be able to meet this communities expectations. I wasn’t able to, even though we worked hard to do that.”
On Tuesday morning, King and his coaching staff met with the team to inform player he was resigning.
“I thought it went well,” King said. “There was some surprise from some of the kids… After it was over with, I had a handful of them come up and give me hugs. There were a few tears in some eyes. Those guys are still my guys.
“Even if I stay in the classroom, or go on to the next adventure in my life, those are my guys,” he added. “When you put in as much time and energy as we have with those guys, they aren’t family, but you become a smaller version of that because you spend so much time together. For those guys, I’m still a phone call and recommendation letter away.”
Olive added that over the past four years, King and his staff have worked tirelessly to try to make Tullahoma into a better program. However, at this time, he felt that a change needed to be made.
“Being baseball coach at Tullahoma is no easy job because of the success that this program has had,” Olive said. “I don’t know about it before Jerry Mathis, I know about it from his time period. You can see all the plaques in the trophy cases.
“It’s a difficult job even when things are supposedly going well. I’ve always said that it was the most difficult job at Tullahoma High School because everybody thinks that they know how to coach the sport of baseball,” he added. “Coach King has worked hard to try to see us through a period where we struggled from an athletic standpoint... He and his coaching staff have worked hard to get the program going in the direction that the community wants this program.”
Prior to taking over Tullahoma’s program, King spent time as an administrator in the Franklin County school system. He also served as the head baseball coach at Franklin County High School and Coffee County Central High School.
As of press time, Tullahoma had yet to put up a listing about its vacancy for new baseball coach. However, Olive said, he expects that to be online Thursday, and he and rest of the administration at THS will then try to determine a time table on when to make a hire.
While there isn’t an exact candidate in mind, Olive said he will be looking for certain qualities during his coaching search.
“We are looking for somebody who can pull the community together,” Olive said. “We are looking for somebody who fits the mold of trying to make sure that we are trying to transfer boys to be young men. Obviously, they need to be able to teach them baseball skills.
“They’ve got to be in a situation where they understand how important this baseball program is to this town,” Olive said. “They may be a head coach, or assistant, but they need to understand the dynamics. Tullahoma is unique. You don’t see too many high school baseball teams with a history that has gone on as long as ours has.”