Ripley girls basketball head coach Steve Willey picked up a prestigious honor last week.
Willey was named the 2020 Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) Girls Basketball Coach of the Year, as voted on by his peers after leading the Lady Tigers to a 32-2 record and winning the MHSAA Class 4A Girls Basketball State Championship back in March.
“Its a big honor,” said Willey. “Anytime you win an award like that, you're humbled by it. I won a similar award like this in Tennessee too. To say you were voted in two states as the coach of the year is pretty good. There are so many good coaches in Mississippi and it's an honor to be one of them.”
The Canton native spent most of his childhood in Tennessee. That’s where he coached before coming to Ripley.
Willey won more than 500 games in Tennessee, with stops at Rhea County, Smyrna, LaVergne and Central Magnet in Murfreesboro. He then retired and returned to his home state. In his last season at Central Magnet, Willey earned the 2014-2015 Don Meyer Coach of the Year award for Class AA.
Now entering his sixth season as the head coach of the Lady Tigers, Willey has accumulated a 116-37 record through five seasons, including five playoff appearances and playing in three state championship games out of the last four years.
He surpassed the 600-win mark after a first round victory over Mooreville in the 2019 playoffs and after capping off the 2020 season with his first state title as a head coach for 34 years, Willey's overall record stands at 635-251, a winning percentage of 71.7.
“Coaching awards is a team thing,” claimed Willey. “The players we had were tremendous and I know that team awards lead to individual awards. When you when a state championship, people will always look to reward the individuals on that team. I couldn't have asked for a better team. From the very first day they were on a mission. We came up short a couple of times and they were looking to finish what they started. I never had to worry about practice or getting them to buy in because they pushed themselves. And it paid off.”