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McFerren to SEMO?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lennies McFerren
SIKESTON - The Southeast Missouri State University boys basketball program has a vacancy at the head coach position.

While no official names have been mentioned by SEMO officials, the rumor mill is operating at full capacity.

Several names have been thrown out including Missouri assistant coach Jay Spoonhour, St. Louis assistant and Bernie native Anthony Beane, Tennessee assistant Scott Edgar and Central Missouri State head coach Kim Anderson.

The preceding names all have impressive resumes and experience in the college ranks. However, a name of a local coaching legend in high school, has people talking.

Former Charleston and New Madrid County Central head coach, Lennies McFerren, has been mentioned as a possible candidate in local coffee shops and Internet blogs.

McFerren had a distinguished high school career with nine state titles, seven with Charleston from 1977 to 1993 and two titles with NMCC from 1994 to 2001.

Rumor and speculation into McFerren's interest in the SEMO position was put to rest by McFerren himself on Monday evening.

Asked if he had any in interest in the SEMO position, McFerren was quick and to the point.

"Yeah, I am interested," said McFerren, "no doubt about it. I have applied for the position."

McFerren was optimistic, but guarded about the opportunity of coaching at SEMO.

"It is somewhat of a long shot," said McFerren. "I am not naive to think that I would be first on SEMO's list. I have never coached at the college level and it is a long shot to go from high school to college. But I think I owe fans that want to see me coach again. I really believe I can be a successful coach at that level of basketball."

Coaching at the college level takes a great deal of time and energy, much more than what it takes on the high school level. McFerren has no fear about the challenges of a Division I basketball program.

"Not to sound over-confident," said McFerren, "but I think it would be an easy transition for me. If you want something bad enough and love doing what you do, you do what you have to do for the job."

McFerren, 57, believes that his age should not be a factor in the decision for SEMO.

"Age is a factor only if they don't want you," said McFerren. "I am healthy as a young man and trust me, I can motivate players. Several college coaches are doing well and are at an advanced age. Coach (Gene) Bess over at Three Rivers is doing quite well and coach (Gary) Garner is as old as Lennie McFerren."

Boosters are a big part of college athletics and McFerren is willing and able to work with the boosters at SEMO.

"A program can't survive without the support of the boosters," said McFerren. "Boosters are vital for a program to thrive and with me being a graduate from SEMO, I have loyalty to the school and the basketball program."

McFerren believes that his greatest asset to SEMO would be his ability to recruit local talent. SEMO has missed out on some talented local players in the last several years.

NMCC's Dereke Tipler and Charleston's Kewain Gant and Ashton Farmer all play for Arkansas State.

Tipler just completed his eligibility this season.

Austin Peay benefited from southeast Missouri players with the combo of Sikeston native Corey Gipson, an all-stater at Richland High School, and William Durden of Portageville.

Currently, area players are having good seasons in junior college. Willie Hassell of Portageville, is having a stellar season at Mineral Area and Dominitrix Johnson from Bell City, is filling up the baskets at Three Rivers.

"Recruiting would be the easy part of the job for me," said McFerren. "I love to watch players in high school and in junior college that would fit your mold. With the Riverbend Classic tournament we have held at NMCC, I have some contacts throughout the surrounding states of Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi and Tennessee. I can recruit from St. Louis down to Memphis, and anywhere in between. I have the ability to recruit in our own back door. I will bring a better understanding of the area. Several players have left the area and are doing well with other teams."

McFerren did not know if SEMO has a list of prospective coaches, only that he got confirmation that the university had received his application.

Would SEMO hire a coach with no college coaching experience? McFerren may not have the college experience, but it is not because of a lack of previous offers.

"I have had opportunities to coach at the college level," said McFerren. "Lincoln University offered me the head coaching job some year's back. Norm Stewart at Missouri offered me an assistant coach position, as did SEMO and Gene Bess at Three Rivers. I turned down those offers for one reason, my family. Now, it is all about Lennies McFerren. I am excited about the possibility and believe that the timing is right."

McFerren is content to be the next principal at Scott County Central. He has signed a contract for the next school year, but feels like the SEMO job is the only thing that could lure him away.

"I am riding a cloud right now that only I understand," said McFerren. "I am not interested in being an assistant at SEMO. I love to be the principal at Scott Central. I have paid my dues in coaching and feel that SEMO needs what I can bring to the position.

"In the area, fans know me as a person. They have followed me for 30 years. Like I said, I owe it to my fans to give it a go. I still have coaching in my blood and have the fire to be successful in college. I truly believe that."