By Maurice Patton
COLUMBIA — Who’s in charge?
Seems to be a good question — on multiple levels — at Columbia Central, following the dismissal of girls basketball coach Joshua Bugg by then-principal Roger White, who has since been suspended.
The application process for the vacancy created by Bugg’s firing was supposed to have closed on Thursday (April Fool’s Day, by the way). With no one currently in place at the school level to lead the whittling-down, interviewing or hiring that would follow, however, the process continues on a “day-by-day” basis, according to Maury County Public Schools athletics director Chris Poynter.
On March 5, Bugg was dismissed after four seasons at the Lady Lions’ helm – a decision based, White later said, on “insubordination”.
Three weeks later, on March 25, Jack Cobb of the MCPS communications department distributed a release confirming that White “has been suspended pending an investigation” in the aftermath of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s investigative report regarding the school’s cheer program, with Dr. Rose McClain named interim principal until the internal investigation concludes.
The Comptroller’s report resulted in the indictment of cheer coach Missy Todd on charges of Forgery, Theft and Tampering with or Fabricating Evidence.
On March 31, attempts to determine the impact of White’s suspension on the Central girls basketball hiring process prompted confirmation from Cobb that no hirings will take place “until the situation is resolved.”
Cobb further stated that “We can’t comment on the situation because it’s an active situation.”
The situation, apparently, is how White’s suspension is being characterized at the central office.
But the uncertainty of that situation is creating a trickle-down effect.
“With the status of the situation being day to day, it obviously slows down plans and progress for the program to be able to move forward, to be able to start putting pieces back together to make a run, to do great things in the fall and winter of the year,” said Poynter, who disclosed that more than a dozen individuals had applied for the position by week’s end.
“I think they do have an interim (coach) in place right now. That individual will have to take more of an active role in seeing that the team is fully prepared and ready through the spring, through the summer, and if it takes even longer, possibly the fall and going into the winter months as the season begins.
“(School) leadership and whoever is in the interim role will need to be able to try to start putting their heads together to have a contingency plan if this thing goes day to day far longer than anybody anticipated it being.”
Which is all great. Except – the “interim” coach, former assistant Carden Virgo, was never formally advised of her new role in the aftermath of Bugg’s dismissal.
“I’m just heading up the workouts, doing spring training,” Virgo said. “Megan (Kilburn, Lady Lion assistant) and I are doing that together. I’m just listed as the contact. No interim has been named.
“Right now, all we can focus on is our spring training, our weightlifting and conditioning and open gym. We’ve got a lot of kids playing AAU, a lot of kids in other sports. We’re getting them in the weight room, trying to work on their conditioning and their strength. That’s what Megan and I are doing, and it’s going really well.”
With Central set to play in a new district next season – 12-AAAA, with Independence, Nolensville, Ravenwood and Summit – scheduling looms as an issue. Virgo said she and boys coach Nick Campbell have been addressing that task.
“It’s about 75 percent complete. We’re still waiting on some teams to call us back about games,” she said.
Another item on the to-do list is summer camps, particularly after not participating in those last year because of the pandemic.
“I don’t know if that’s something we had already been registered to go to,” Virgo said. “I’m sure summer camps will take place. I haven’t looked into that yet.”
Virgo asserted that the current uncertainty has no impact on the program’s ability to build on an 18-12 finish – its first winning campaign since 2013-14 – and a region tourney berth for the first time in six years.
“We have four seniors coming up, we’ve got a slew of underclassmen that are ready to play and are playing AAU to get ready to play next year,” she said. “We’re still rolling with our momentum. Our kids have their own personal goals for next year and I know they want to go further in the regional tournament. We’ll be competing in that new district, so that’ll be different. But we haven’t lost our momentum.
“Basketball is basketball, sports are sports no matter who the coach is.”
That’s a good thing, since “who the coach is” threatens to be a question for an indefinite period of time at Columbia Central.
“My hope is that some level of resolution regarding the situation comes to a conclusion sooner than later,” Poynter said. “That way everybody can move on and move forward. However, if this thing does carry out, Central High School has to be prepared for that, … to make sure the young ladies who are returning for next year really don’t get slighted because there is a delay and they still have individuals around them who are still caring and preparing them for next season.
“To have what has transpired and the change that has occurred for girls basketball at Columbia Central is huge. I don’t think anybody wants a setback at this point.”