Vincent Wiggins was approved by the Russell County school board last Tuesday as the teams new baseball coach.
With that, it begins a new era for the program, which will be marked by notable absence of former coach Tony Rasmus and his son Cyle, who was an assistant coach for the team, as well as a complete roster overhaul after a host of graduations and a handful of defections.
Wiggins said he understands the inherent challenges that come with replacing a legend like Tony Rasmus, who put the team on the map in the state of Alabama with 401 wins, a state title and runner-up finish in 13 years.
Coach Rasmus did a fantastic job here, and I have obviously have to come in and embrace some of the things he did, Wiggins said. At the same time, I have to set my own foundation and lean on my beliefs. Sometimes people have to follow a legend. Its not easy, but you have to embrace it. Weve got about 12 or 13 guys who are left over. I cant go out and recruit like college. Ive got to get in the halls and all that, and we have to develop what weve got. Were going to give guys an opportunity and develop the best 25-30 guys we can.
Wiggins has already been on staff as a defensive backs coach for the Warriors football team this season. Prior to that, he was the football coach at Jeff Davis for two years and spent more than a decade as a Central assistant coach under former coach Ron Nelson and current coach Woodrow Lowe.
His experience in baseball includes time as an assistant under Nelson and former coach Jason Stamp. He played high school ball for Nelson and college ball at Tuskegee.
Head football coach and school athletic director Demond McCoy called the presence of Wiggins on the football staff a blessing in disguise in relation to the search for a new baseball coach.
I was talking to him, getting him on as a football coach, because we needed a defensive coach, McCoy said. He came on there, and he just happened to be a guy that fell into our laps for baseball as well. After working with him for about two months now, seeing his work ethic and how he handles kids, if he takes the same approach, hell be fine.
Wiggins selection ended a long process marked by some level of confusion, as reports that the team had hired former Edgewood Academy assistant coach Josh Hendricks surfaced in June. McCoy said Hendricks was offered the job, but wasnt approved by the county. McCoy did not elaborate on the boards reasoning behind the vote.
Another name many had hoped would be in the conversation for the job was Rasmuss youngest son, Cyle. McCoy said Cyle was not considered because he had not yet been certified as a teacher.
We hire teachers first at Russell County, McCoy said. We have to get academics up to par first. Its a plus when we can find a teacher who can coach, but when we look at a position to fill, we have to look at teaching first.
Wiggins added that for the immediate future, he didnt expect Cyle Rasmus to be a part of the staff, though he said he reached out to the former assistant coach.
Some in the community have worried about the programs future because of a lack of connection to the program, its history and its pipeline of strong talent, which often transfers in from out of district.
Wiggins answered by saying he understood the concerns, but he was focused on controlling what he could control.
Weve got about 12 or 13 guys who are left over, he said. Weve got to work with them. I cant go out and recruit like in college. Ive got to get in the halls and all that and develop the guys weve got. Were going to give guys an opportunity and develop the best 25-30.
The goal is still the same. We want to win the region, go to the playoffs and, hopefully, win a state championship. Thats easier said than done. But Im not afraid of work. We can put together a competent staff, one that is willing to roll up their sleeves and get after it.