Mark Rose’s story as a head coach in the state of Alabama has been one of success, winning 139 games in 16 seasons, including 10 with Smiths Station in 2013. For his final chapter, he said, he’d like to go back to where he had his most success.
Rose accepted the head coaching position at North Jackson High in Stevenson, Ala., on Tuesday, ending a six-year stint with the Panthers and returning to a school where he spent eight seasons (2000-08), won 85 games and coached it the Class 4A state finals in 2002.
“We had eight great years there before,” Rose said on Wednesday. “We had four 10-0 regular seasons while I was there. I have really close friends that I have remained close with up there during my years at Smiths Station. It was just a time we felt like we’d get back together. It’s the place I’d like to finish out my career.”
The job is pending Jackson County school board approval, which will be determined at a meeting on Jan. 23. Rose won’t take up the post until March 3, because his current priority is helping his Smiths Station seniors through the recruiting process leading up to national signing day on Feb. 5.
“That’s my complete focus for now,” he said.
Rose said that leaving Smiths Station was a difficult decision, calling the 2013 season one of the most “rewarding” of his career as a high school coach.
The Panthers won 10 games, ended long losing streaks against Opelika (16 years) and Auburn (eight years), and advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 1996.
“It certainly was one of the most rewarding seasons I’ve ever been associated with,” he said. “The peak of it was playing in front of 9,000 people at Opelika. It was more about the journey and seeing those kids reap the reward of their work, seeing them play in such a big game that they had worked so hard for. Then, going through injuries and adversity to rally the troops and make a run to the final eight. It was just a special season.”
During his six years at Smiths Station, Rose’s teams ran the gauntlet of success, winning six in his first season, dropping to two in his second and gradually building to a 10-3 finish in 2013. He was named All-Bi-City coach of the year for the team’s success in his final season at the helm.
Overall, Rose went 34-31 and took the Panthers to the playoffs three times.
He stressed his appreciation to his coaches, players and the Lee County Board of Education for their faith and loyalty during the rebuilding process.
“I’ve got to thank (coaches and players) for their work in getting this back to a power in the state of Alabama, and also the Lee County board,” he said. “There are some outstanding people who stood with me to get this turned around.”
At his new job, Rose will take over a team that went 2-8 last season and has cycled through four coaches in a year, according to the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, which first reported this story. North Jackson’s lack of success in 2013 is a rarity, only its second losing season in its 26-year history.
Rose told the Time-Free Press that he’s going back for one reason:
“It’s always felt like home to me, and I’m coming back for one reason and that’s to win the state championship,” he said. “We got close a few times when I was there before, and I want to go back and finish the job.”
Smiths Station principal Jason Yohn said there are no hard feelings toward Rose and that he is appreciative for the impact Rose had on athletics and the school as a whole.
“He was a great resource for us as administrators,” Yohn said, adding later: “I’d like to see him win a state championship one day. He deserves it.”
Yohn said the process for hiring a new coach will begin in earnest next week when Lee County superintendent James McCoy returns to the office from a business trip. Yohn said they had spoken briefly about how to approach the vacancy.
“We’ve talked briefly, not really about a timetable, because you settle sometimes when you put yourself on a timetable,” Yohn said. “I’d for sure like to have someone here for spring training. Our current assistants will keep the weight training going, because that was such a big deal for us. I told the kids this morning, just because (Rose) is leaving doesn’t mean we’re going to quit working.
“I would hope we have an interim in place no later than the February board meeting, and then I’d hope to hire a coach in March.”
As to any specific candidates, Yohn wouldn’t give any names. One potential name that is sure to come up is Charles Flowers, who coached Shaw High for 14 years and led it to a Class AAAA state title in 2000. Flowers is currently the coach of the ninth grade team at Smiths Station Junior High.
“I talked to Coach Flowers when we hired him a few years ago, and at the time he told me he didn’t want to be a head coach anymore. That was a few years ago, so that may have changed,” Yohn said. “What I do know is that he’s a great man and could certainly provide leadership for anybody. If he’s interested, he’ll certainly be given the same consideration as anyone else.”
This story will be updated.