Jessie stepping down from Seymour basketball job
Monday afternoon Seymour Eagles basketball players got some surprising news. Head coach Brian Jessie, who just completed his fourth season at the helm of the team in March, is stepping down.
"It's a family decision," Jessie, 42, told The Mountain Press Tuesday morning.
"I've been doing this since 2001, and my youngest daughter Leslie doesn't know what it's like for me to not be (a head coach)."
With his oldest daughter Sarah graduating from Carson-Newman and getting married this summer, Jessie said he and his wife Phyllis were starting to realize he was missing some things in his children's lives.
"We started thinking last week of how my oldest daughter's going to graduate and she'll be getting married and out of the house … and I don't want to miss time.
"My youngest (a seventh grader at Seymour Middle), she's playing middle school ball, and I'd always be at one game and she'd be at another."
Also, being a Christian, Jessie said, led him to the realization that he wasn't always putting first things first.
"Recently some of the messages at church have been about not putting anything ahead of God," he said. "And sometimes, I've put basketball ahead of everything.
"It's all I've known since I was a little kid — basketball. I was very happy coaching, but I'm very happy with the idea of having more time with my family."
Jessie said his players were surprised by the announcement, but he's confident they'll do well with the transition.
"Nobody likes change, but that's life. Life's about change," he said. "Kids are resilient. You play ball because you love basketball, not because of you love the coach. They'll be fine."
Jessie, who compiled a 49-63 record in his four seasons of rebuilding the Eagles, bettered the team's record in each year with the Blue and Gold.
From his first season's difficult road (7-19 overall) to a first winning record this season (17-12), the Eagles are definitely better now than when he begun.
"I knew it was going to be a difficult job when I took it — I was the third coach in three years," Jessie said.
"Obviously you want to win championships, but every year we improved. And going out with a winning record is a good way to go out.
Gary Householder, Seymour's athletic director, said he hates to see Jessie leave as coach.
"I was disappointed," Householder said. "I thought that he had the program going in the right direction. We were so close this year on so many (district) games, and we were getting better every year. And I think hew as a great influence on our kids and a great role model for them.
"I hate it, but I understand why he did it," the longtime football coach continued. "I think we all in coaching wrestle with that decision sometimes. It does cheat our families. I still feel guilty about it sometimes."
Jessie said he's confident he's leaving the team in better shape than he found it.
"The program is in great shape," he said. "(Seymour High) is a wonderful place with great kids, great parents and wonderful administrative support.
"(Director of Schools) Dr. Jack Parton, (School Board Member) Charles Temple and (Athletic Director) Gary Householder — they're the reasons I'm here. They presented themselves so well and the community so well, and it was everything I knew it was going to be.
Jessie also complimented both principals that he coached under at Seymour, Greg Clark and Kristy Wallen.
"They said they were going to give me everything we needed and they did," he said.
As for the players, they're prepared to take the Eagles to new heights.
"The main thing I told the kids is they now know how to win, and we've got a lot of returning players, experienced players," Jessie said.
Making the decision to leave wasn't easy for the coach, despite his desire to experience more time with his family.
"I'm a coach, and I really enjoy coaching," he said. "That's what mad the decision hard. I know what I am, I know what I enjoy, and I know that I'll do it again.
"I've been coaching for such a long time, and it's not just the games (I'll miss) — it's the people you meet, seeing kids grow up into young men and those relationships. That's what it's all about. Seeing those young boys turning into men.
"I want to be able to look myself in the mirror and say I gave everything I could for those kids. 'Did you treat the kids good and fairly?' And I know I've done that."
Eagles senior Peyton Lee, who played his entire high school career under Jessie, said the team was taken off-guard by the coach's decision.
"The team had no idea that he was even considering leaving," Lee said. "I wasn't in there when he actually told the team, but he told me later it was for family reasons.
"It's a sad situation that he has to resign, but hopefully he gets everything worked out. He was a good mentor and coach."
Currently a physical education teacher at Seymour High, Jessie said he knows his position may be needed for the school to hire its next coach, and he accepts that.
He does hope to remain in Sevier County Schools, however.
"I definitely want to stay in the county," Jessie, who's qualified to teach all the way from Kindergarten to 12th grade. "I can teach at any level, and that's a blessing."
Householder said the school has already started their coaching search, publishing the posting on the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association's jobs bulletin board at tssaa.org.
The athletic director hopes the school can name a replacement within the next month, so that the team can be at full strength for summer camps.