05/14/08 — Decision surprises former Trojans

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Decision surprises former Trojans

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 14, 2008 2:50 PM




All those emotions flowed freely as Mount Olive men's basketball coach Bill Clingan officially called it a career with the Division II school. The announcement drew mixed reactions from the coach's former players, who have become successful on the high school scene.

"I am a little surprised by the announcement today," said Southern Wayne head coach Russell Stephens. "I thought we were just getting together for lunch at first, and then I found out what was happening."

Stephens, however, knew Clingan wouldn't leave the campus.

"He is still going to be around," he said. "He may be done as a head coach, but he is not done with Mount Olive and that is really good to hear."

Former MOC guard Elijah Rouse echoed Stephens' sentiments.

"It's hard to believe that he is really done today," said Rouse, a Kinston native. "Having just graduated a year ago, it seems really close to home to watch coach Clingan talk about his career coming to an end."

Both offensive standouts made note of Clingan's unique ability to endure himself to his players, in an almost father-like fashion.

"When I came here, coach guided me and helped turn me into a better basketball player and a better man," said Stephens. "He became a person that I looked up to, and I still look up to him now."

Stephens and Rouse both applauded the decision of Joey Higginbotham's promotion to head coach.

"Moving forward with Joey, I know that the program will be in great hands," said Rouse. "There were times over the last few years when I was playing that coach Clingan couldn't be at practice, and Joey did a great job running things. He is definitely a good choice."

Stephens agreed.

"It is sad to see a great coach stepping down, but at the same time it is nice to see that the administration kept the job within the family so to speak," Stevens said. "Joey is a good coach and a great person."

Higginbotham has already signed two players for next season -- Deshaune Green and Derek Staton. That's a sure sign he's ready to get started.