ECRU- Dana Rhea has reached the pinnacle of success as a softball coach, and returning to his small town roots is the direction he now wants to go.
"Coaching the same kind of small-town kids, who really love their community, and being a part of the type of environment in which I grew up is important to me, and I hope I fit in and that the kids respond to my approach," said Rhea, who won a state 6-A title as coach of the Tupelo Lady Golden Wave in 2017. Rhea has two daughters at North Pontotoc, and his wife, Alasha, graduated school there in 1994. Rhea and his wife and children live in Endville, in the northeastern section of Pontotoc County, and while he greatly enjoyed his year coaching at Kossuth, he won't miss the 120-mile daily commute back-and-forth, he said.
"It's not a money decision. It's not a winning decision. It's a family decision," Rhea said.
Rhea played a lot of high school baseball against North Pontotoc, as a standout player for the Ingomar Falcons, just a short drive up Hwy. 15. He knows the culture of diamond sports in Pontotoc County, and he's excited to return.
"So many skills are transferable between baseball and softball," said Rhea. "I hope the way I played and the passion with which I approached the game spills over to the kids."
In five seasons at the helm of the Lady Wave, Rhea amassed a record of 83-35. Prior to that, he led Nettleton to the 3A title series three times in four years.
"Traditionally, North Pontotoc has always had a good softball program, with good athletes, and they've been well-coached, from Coach Austin (Cavenaugh), going all the way back to Coach (Shane) Montgomery," said Rhea. "I just want to keep that winning tradition going."
North Pontotoc Athletic Director Chad Anthony said he was happy to have Rhea join the staff.
"We are excited have Coach Rhea joining us, and he will fit in great and do a wonderful job," said Anthony.
Outgoing Coach Cee Cee Cavenaugh said she had every confidence in Rhea.
"He is a great hire," said Cavenaugh, who coached the Lady Vikings for nine seasons and accumulated a record of 235-92. She stepped down this year to spend more time with family. "He (Rhea) will be great for the girls and the program, and I'm excited to see the progress he'll make."
Rhea said he didn't have any sage words of wisdom, or a guiding philosophy about sports, but pouring heart-and-soul into the game is always been his mantra.
"Play like its your last day to play," said Rhea. "That's how I played, and the way I coach my players. If this was your last day to play, how would you want to be remembered?"