Independence goes west for new boys basketball coach

By Maurice Patton

Mark Wilkins, who has led South Gibson to three Class AA state sectional appearances in the last four seasons, will be the successor to Doug Keil atop the Independence boys basketball program.

“There were a lot of outstanding coaches interested in this position, but we feel Coach Wilkins is a home-run hire and a great addition to our community,” Independence principal Niki Patton said in announcing the move Wednesday.

“(Wilkins) is not only a winning coach but will be an inspiring coach for our players. His commitment and passion for the game, along with his integrity, is a winning combination that will strengthen our basketball program and support our efforts to ensure student success in athletics and academics.”

Wilkins, who played for his father, Mitch, at Henry County before graduating from Lipscomb University in 2012, spent three seasons as an assistant at Beech – under current Williamson County Schools athletics director Darren Joines – prior to taking the position at South Gibson.

In six seasons at the Medina, Tenn., school, he posted a 112-68 record, leading the Hornets to District 13-AA championships each of the last two years.

His is a coaching family, as brothers David and John are also high school coaches in West Tennessee in addition to their father, who led Gibson County to the Class A girls basketball state tournament earlier this month. Mitch has won more than 900 games with the Lady Pioneers, at Henry County and in the Missouri boys ranks. David is the girls coach at Huntingdon, while John just completed his first season as boys and girls coach at McKenzie.

“My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the Independence family,” said Wilkins, referring to his wife, Abbey, and 11-month-old son John David (the couple is expecting again in September). “We love our South Gibson community, and we are so thankful for our time in Medina.

“However, we believe that Independence is truly a special place, and we feel a call to this community.”

The Independence position became vacant when Keil abruptly resigned in early February – ending his Eagle head coaching tenure after two-plus seasons with a 29-43 record. Jeff Parker was named to replace Keil on an interim basis and led the team to a 2-2 mark en route to a 10-11 finish.

“In this particular case, I knew several of the candidates and I thought they were all great candidates,” Joines said. “They made the decision and they hired a great coach.

“I am super excited about (Wilkins) being in this district. He is a rising start. He’s already one, if you ask me. He’s always been older than his age, in all the right areas. He’s a great promoter of his program.”

Meanwhile, Independence’s search for a girls coach continues. Bryan Glasner, hired in March 2019, resigned in February after an investigation that began prior to the start of the 2020-21 season. Athletics director Mary Beth White led the Lady Eagles in an interim role this past campaign.

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