06/13/13 — A new Saint: Massey is McKee's successor at Southern Wayne

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A new Saint: Massey is McKee's successor at Southern Wayne

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 13, 2013 1:47 PM

Leaving a well-established program that's produced numerous collegiate players is never an easy decision and usually leaves your most-loyal supporters scratching their heads.

Neither is departing a program where you tore down the existing foundation and built a new product that showed vast improvement -- and gained respect -- during your second season as a head coach.

Trae McKee and Jackson Massey are experiencing those emotions.

McKee recently resigned as head varsity baseball coach at Southern Wayne and Massey, who resurrected Goldsboro's program, has been chosen as his successor.

"It's probably one of the hardest, if not the hardest decision I've ever made," said McKee, who has worked for five different principals during his 12 seasons in the Saints' dugout. "It wasn't like I didn't enjoy what I was doing because I did. I couldn't give my kids (at home) one hundred percent. I felt that the most important walls are the walls at home right now, and that's got to be made a priority.

"It's tough to walk away from something that you enjoy. I know it's time and God has given me peace (about it)."

McKee succeeded legendary coach Doyle Whitfield and put his own stamp on one of the most-respected programs in eastern North Carolina. A Mount Olive College alum, McKee compiled a 176-136 record and coached more than 20 players who continued their respective careers at the collegiate level.

The Saints grabbed a share of the 2006 Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season championship, and claimed the 2012 ECC tournament crown.

But the relationships mean more to McKee than wins and losses.

"The kids have learned the right way to play the game and there have been some life lessons," McKee said. "The character of the kids in the program has been outstanding. That's the part I'm going to miss the most ... relationships you develop with your players and watching them grow into young men."

Massey, like McKee, laid his own groundwork at Goldsboro.

Also an MOC alum, Massey got the support needed to renovate a down-trodden facility that was more of a hazard than an actual ballfield. The community rallied behind him, the players bought into his system and his coaching peers couldn't help but recognize the change this past season.

Compliments from opposing coaches flowed freely in post-game handshakes. The coaches expressed how impressed they were with Massey's ability to turn around a near-dormant program that showed little competitiveness before his arrival.

"I feel like I'm leaving it in a better place than when I got it," Massey said. "The players are doing a great job and that program is heading in the right direction. Southern Wayne has always been a competitive school with good ballplayers and a great community.

"I had to decide what was best for my career and the Southern Wayne job was something I couldn't pass up. Trae has done a ton of work over there. They're always a contender for the conference championship and the state playoffs every year."

Massey faces two challenges.

One, the players must buy into his system.

Two, the Saints move into a split-classification conference that includes 4-A schools D.H. Conley, J.H. Rose, South Central and New Bern.

"This is one of the premier baseball conferences in North Carolina," Massey said. "As far as the team, I'm going to do some of the same things Coach McKee did, but I'm going to do some things different, too. The biggest thing is I want to get everyone on the same page so we don't have to worry about communication.

"I know it's not going to happen overnight. It's a matter of getting to know the players and the community."