By Maurice Patton
THOMPSONS STATION — No one at Independence expected the season that the girls basketball program has endured.
One of the few positives of the campaign, though, has been the addition of Hall of Fame coach Jack Harlow to the Lady Eagles’ staff.
“He’s a legend,” said Independence athletics director Mary Beth White, who took over the program last fall when Bryan Glasner stepped away (and subsequently resigned). “Every time we go into a gym, either a coach or an official is like, ‘Is that Jack Harlow?’
“We can’t go anywhere that somebody doesn’t know him or played for him at Columbia or Franklin County or Bradley (Central). It’s been a lot of fun.”
Coaching at Franklin County (1978-94), Columbia Central (1994-99) and Bradley Central (1999-2004), Harlow won 564 games and led each of those programs to TSSAA State Tournament berths, making five total appearances. He subsequently served as an assistant at Shelbyville, Franklin County, Giles County – his alma mater – and Ripley, Miss.
Harlow’s arrival at Independence was a result of Glasner’s, as the two of them had worked together previously.
“He used to help me at Franklin County,” said Harlow, a 2013 Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Hall of Fame inductee. “He took the Independence job, and he asked me over the summer (of 2020) if I’d come and help him. … He’s taken out of the picture, they bring Mary Beth out of the AD office, Dom St. Louis is the assistant coach.
“I bring experience. I do what (White) tells me to do. I make observations.”
In addition to the preseason coaching change, the Lady Eagles have dealt with some personnel issues – leaving a young roster that, in the midst of a pandemic, managed just two regular-season victories before Sunday’s 37-12 win over Centennial in the opening round of the District 11-AAA tournament.
Despite the struggles and the unsettled situation – the head coaching position has been posted for next year — Harlow has managed to make a mark.
“He was a steal to have here on our staff,” Independence principal Niki Patton said. “It’s a big win for us to have him over here. He’s seen it all, with his vast experience. We know he’s built programs from start to finish, taken young teams like this one that are struggling. He helps try to keep the mindset of ‘forget the scoreboard’.
“I don’t think a lot of the girls really knew him, knew that name in the coaching world. I think they Googled him.”
With the Lady Eagles set to travel Monday to fifth-ranked Brentwood in the district tournament quarterfinals, Harlow knows his time could be winding down. But the 70-year-old’s intention is to be on a sideline for the 2021-22 campaign.
“I’ll have to sit down and talk with the new coach,” he said. “I’m going to try to coach and help somebody next year.”
If it’s up to Patton, a change won’t be necessary.
“We’ll keep him as long as he’ll let us,” she said.
Independence girls 37, Centennial 12
I 3 14 11 9 – 37
C 0 3 5 4 – 12
Independence (37) – Jayla Miller 2, Evy Nichols 6, Lilian Passé 2, Trinity Love 2, Chaise Bethmann 1, Ryan Brown 11, Cristy Martinez 13
Centennial (12) – A.J. Lein 6, Addison Gorday 2, Catherine Ligon 1, Andie Kelley 3
3-pointers – Independence 2 (Nichols), Centennial 0