By Maurice Patton
His most recent and most prolific coaching was in football, but when Independence needed an interim basketball coach, the choice of Jeff Parker was a “no-brainer”.
Principal Niki Patton saw her confidence rewarded Friday night, as the Eagles downed host Summit 64-57 in Parker’s first game at the helm following the sudden resignation Thursday of third-year coach Doug Keil.
“I recruited at Independence when I was at Tennessee State,” said Parker, who spent nine seasons on the Tigers’ football coaching staff, the last four as offensive coordinator, before his departure at the end of the 2018 season. “Coach (Scott) Blade and I had a great relationship. I was able to get here through football.”
In addition to his gridiron duties over the past two years, Parker had also worked with Keil and the basketball program.
“I had the freshmen last year. Coach (Keil) wanted me to move up with my guys, so I was able to do (junior varsity) and varsity this year,” he said.
Before embarking on a football coaching career, though, Parker spent four years in the Florida hardwood coaching ranks – four (1997-2001) as head coach at Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach.
His prior and recent history made for a quick decision for Patton once Keil stepped down.
“It was a no-brainer, with his coaching experience,” she said. “He loves our kids. He’s been with them from the beginning. He’s a good motivator. The guys respect him, they trust him. He’s always encouraging, even when he’s correcting them.”
As the regular season winds down – Independence (9-9, 6-6) plays Monday at District 11-AAA and Williamson County rival Franklin, hosts Dickson County Tuesday and travels to Spring Hill Friday before the Feb. 16 finale at Brentwood – Parker’s goal is to keep the Eagles “moving forward” and make some postseason noise.
“We’re not going to change much. It wouldn’t be fair to the kids,” he said. “We’re just going to try to get better at what we’re doing and what they know, just try to get ‘em to play hard and block out all the distractions.
“We just want to go out and play hard and build on what we’ve been doing. We’re focusing on trying to get a great seeding as far as the (district) tournament is concerned and playing this season out.”