By Maurice Patton
Matt Horton, who in 2020-21 led the Spring Hill girls basketball program to its first winning season in 18 years, has been named boys coach at Mt. Pleasant.
Though the transfer has not been finalized by Maury County Public Schools, Horton’s departure was confirmed this weekend by Spring Hill athletics director John Farmer.
“We were officially notified Friday morning, but I knew he’d interviewed earlier in the week,” Farmer said.
Horton replaces Chris Carney, dismissed in April after two seasons at the Tiger helm during which he compiled a 30-27 record. At the time of his appointment, Carney became Mt. Pleasant’s fourth boys basketball coach in four seasons – following Cory Armstrong, Ron Harris and MPHS graduate Derek Boyd, who resigned in April 2017 after 20 years atop the program.
A former women’s assistant at now-defunct Lambuth University in Jackson, Horton had coached girls programs at Houston County (14-13 in 2016-17) and Halls (28-69 from 2012-26). However, he also coached boys programs at Potts Camp, Miss., and Fayette-Ware in Somerville, Tenn., as well as at Collinwood.
“I’d coached boys (from 1999-2002) at Collinwood, in Mt. Pleasant’s district,” he recalled. “I’d thought since then it’d be a good place to coach boys. It’s something I’d had my eyes on for a while. I’m glad I finally got the opportunity.
“It’s the only job I can think of that I’d have left where I was at, to be honest.”
With the Lady Raiders, Horton’s 32-73 performance was capped by the program’s 17-11 finish this past year, a third-place regular-season finish in District 11-AAA play and a Region 6-AAA tourney berth.
“When he came in, girls basketball was in pretty bad shape, to be honest,” Farmer said. “We had trouble getting girls to try out. He had seven or eight girls his first year. Imagine the challenge of playing Triple-A girls basketball …
“Each year, he won a few more games, culminating in the region berth. … It’s a definite testament to what he was able to accomplish, and I think he’s going to continue at Mt. Pleasant.”
According to Mt. Pleasant principal Ryan Jackson, Horton’s appointment is pending approval by the MCPS central office.
“It’s in the hands of (human relations),” Jackson said. “We’ve submitted a request to hire. It’s an internal transfer, so I’d hope it wouldn’t take that long. But it’s in the works.”
Following the recent hire of former Summit assistant Hayden Pentecost as coach of the Lady Tigers, Horton rounds out the basketball coaching staff for Mt. Pleasant.
“It’s the worst-kept secret,” Jackson said regarding Horton – while not referring specifically to him. “We’re moving in a direction and we’re feeling confident. It’s a guy that’s got experience, which ultimately weighed heavily in the decision.
“With a first-year coach with the girls, it’s nice to have some veteran leadership. We’re just making sure we keep the scale balanced.”
While the development nearly fills all of Mt. Pleasant’s coaching vacancies – there’s a baseball search ongoing, following the recent resignation of Kennedy Mathis after one year – Spring Hill now has to identify a replacement for Horton while contemplating a move into a new district and region.
With the inception of four classes for basketball, baseball and softball, Spring Hill will compete in District 8-AAA for the upcoming classification period along with Lawrence County, Lincoln County, Marshall County, Page and Tullahoma. Region 4-AAA will consist of those teams, with District 7-AAA members Cumberland County, DeKalb County, Livingston Academy, Macon County, Stone Memorial, Upperman and White County.
Mt. Pleasant also changes classifications, moving to District 10-AA with Giles County, Lewis County, Loretto and Summertown – the latter two coming up from Class A, as are the Tigers.
“It’s one of those places you’re always going to have the talent to be competitive, and in some years have an opportunity to make a run in the tournament,” Horton said. “That’s why I’ve always thought it would be a good place to be.”
“There’s some good kids (at Spring Hill). I hope they can work hard and keep moving forward. I look forward to seeing how far they can do. The timing definitely wasn’t ideal, but that’s the way things go sometimes.”
“We’ve had to do it before,” Farmer said, referring to the mid-July hiring of Horton in 2017. “There’s never really a good time as far as coaching changes. It’s just part of the beast you’ve got to deal with. I do believe they’ve started (identifying) candidates. That’s more of an administrative thing with (Spring Hill principal Christine) Potts.”
● On another front, Spring Hill volleyball assistant Steve Mahan has been elevated to the head coaching role following the departure of Sarah Derryberry earlier this spring.
“Coach Derryberry is going to have a baby, and she decided in the best interests of her and her family that she should step away from coaching,” Farmer said. “I don’t believe she plans on coming back. She may change her mind later, but the impression I got was this was permanent.”