PERKINSTON — Wendell Weathers has spent a lifetime making Mississippi Gulf Coast a power in community college basketball.
Now he'll take some time for himself and his family. The head coach of the Bulldogs for the last 17 years is stepping down, three wins short of the 300-win plateau.
"This has been an emotional decision for me," Weathers said. "Gulf Coast has been my life. Just growing up on that campus, all the experiences as a kid, being able to play there and win a state championship, coming back and working with my dad and taking over the program. We've been pretty successful in what we've done there."
Weathers, who was inducted into the MGCCC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013, has 31 years on the coaching staff at Gulf Coast, including time spent as an assistant to his dad, legendary coach Bob Weathers. He leaves a program that is miles ahead of teams in the MACJC for its consistency. Gulf Coast has gone to 21 straight state tournaments, 16 more than the next closest streak.
The Bulldogs won 20 games in 2018-19, and Weathers retires with a 297-154 record. That's a sterling .659 winning percentage.
His Bulldogs won the 2009 Region 23 Tournament, advancing to the national championship tournament. The Bulldogs won back-to-back state championships in 2011-12 and have won three MACJC South Division championships. Weathers coached the MACJC South All-Stars in 2011-12.
Weathers grew up on the campus while his father coached the Bulldogs. He played for Gulf Coast from 1976 to 1978, winning one South Division title and one state championship. He earned All-State honors both years, being named state most valuable player in 1978, and holds the school record for assists in a game, season and career.
"It was terrifically rewarding to win a state championship playing for my dad in 1978," he said.
He went on to play at Delta State and served as a graduate assistant coach there before coaching high school basketball in Louisiana at Buras and Thibodeaux. Weathers won Louisiana District 8-4A Coach of the Year in 1987.
He returned in 1988 and was an assistant with his father until Bob Weathers' retirement in 2002. Gulf Coast won three South titles, two state championships and three Region 23 crowns.
The first players he recruited as an assistant had an outsized impact on the history of Gulf Coast basketball.
"Those freshmen were the team that went to the national tournament in 1991 and got beat in the semifinals," Weathers said. "That was a huge, positive, enjoyable experience there."
Nearly 50 players have gone on to play basketball at four-year schools, and dozens have gone on to play professionally around the world, including Ira Newble who played eight years in the NBA.
Weathers also taught chemistry at Perkinston during his coaching tenure.
"There's lots of people to thank over the years, the teachers I worked with, the folks who were over the science department," he said. "I worked for five or six or seven different vice presidents. Dr. Mellinger was the president when I was hired and brought to work here. There's lots of people who have been good to me. I grew up with Dr. (Mary S.) Graham, and she's been supportive of everything I've done over the years. It's been a good run. I've been here 31 years. It's kinda time to do something different."
Weathers and his wife Tammie, who retired from Gulf Coast last year, will take an immediate vacation.
"We're going to leave here in a few minutes and go to Orange Beach," he said. "Other than that, I guess I'll get used to doing nothing for a while."
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