The 2001-2002 high school sports year is over in Southeast Missouri. We all knew who the best players were in each sport, but who were the top coaches?
Everybody has his or her own opinion, based on either team success or what coach got the most out of the least. All things considered, here are what I consider the top 10 coaching jobs in the area this year:
1. JIM McKAY
McKay walked into quite a challenge this year, grabbing the reins of the worst football team in the area. Whether it was good coaching or simply moving in at the right time -- Portageville's improvement under McKay was nothing short of incredible.
On the heels of the nightmarish 0-9 campaign of 2000, the Bulldogs went 7-3, losing to three playoff teams. They also won 2A District 1, a feat that looked nearly impossible at the beginning of the season.
2. DAVID HEEB Bell City Boys Basketball
The Cubs went from decent to stellar this year, winning the Class 1A state championship with ease. In the playoffs, Bell City took it to another level, coming close to several state records with dominating wins at the Hearnes Center.
The Cubs started talking about winning state when Heeb took the job two years ago. Not as many are laughing now that they've done it, myself included.
3. ERIC SITZE
After a tremendous season in basketball, Sitze and many of his players traded in the rock for a nine-iron. And they turned out to be even better at that.
The Bearcat linksters didn't even win their district, but they peaked at the right time, claiming the 3A state crown on Springfield's challenging Rivercut course. Whatever it takes to become a good golf coach, Sitze has obviously figured it out.
4. JERRY GRIM
Notre Dame Girls Basketball
Grim has put out some good girls basketball teams at Notre Dame over the years, but none came close to this year's squad. The Lady Bulldogs won their first state title in Class 2A, finishing with a 29-2 record. Even the good teams in our area were no match for them.
5. CARL GROSS
Everybody knew Jackson's football team was going to be solid this year, but did anybody honestly expect the 5A semifinals?
The Indians proved they could play with the biggest of the big boys, eventually losing to nationally ranked Hazelwood East.
Gross continues to produce Southeast Missouri's top football program.
6. STEVE ROGERS
Rogers was dealt a good hand, and he played it extremely well. With amazing talent all over the field, NMCC was a dominant force in 3A this year, giving powerhouse Platte County all it wanted in the championship game.
Rogers is only the second football coach in the area's history to earn Missouri "Coach of the Year" honors. His spring softball team wasn't too shabby either.
7. KEVIN SELF
Many expected the Bulldogs to return to Columbia after finishing second in the state last year. But the road Sikeston took to get there was more grueling than anybody could have ever imagined. Kennett, North County and Pacific were among the best teams in the state, and Self's team was able to take them down in order.
While Sikeston's Final Four showing was a disappointment, the Bulldogs' season overall was anything but.
8. MARK BAROUSSE
Poplar Bluff Track
Poplar Bluff finished its outstanding year of high school athletics with their boys track team taking second at state. The Mules were strong in all areas, falling just 11 team points shy of the stacked state champion -- Hazelwood East.
Barousse also ranked as one of the area's top football coaches. He will be missed.
9. SCOTT KRUSE
Twin Rivers Basketball
The Royals were underrated all year in basketball. The Class 2A District 1 Tournament looked like a one-team race, but Kruse and Company managed to upset Almighty Portageville.
Then in the 2A semifinals, Twin Rivers almost took down loaded Charleston.
10. BART McATEE
The Indians were a powerhouse this year, producing their best baseball team in school history. McAtee's squad was a solid 21-4, giving Sikeston all it wanted in a 7-6, 10-inning playoff loss.
In every other sport, Kennett seems to be cursed, fading down the stretch every year. This baseball team was the exception to the school's notorious tradition.
OTHERS that just missed the cut include Mitch Wood, Oran Baseball; Laura Brown, Delta Fall Softball; Jim Seal, Clearwater Boys Basketball; Joby Holland, NMCC Boys Basketball; Kirk Chronister, Poplar Bluff Girls Basketball; Danny Farmer, Charleston Boys Basketball; Lee Brooks, Sikeston Girls Basketball; Randy White, Delta Girls Basketball; Rhonda Evans, Kelly Spring Softball; John David Patillo, Poplar Bluff Boys Basketball; and Rick Oetting, Sikeston golf.