E.A. Sports Today

Letting one go

After getting Weaver’s football job, Atchley gives up girls basketball, longtime junior high girls coach Jamie Burns promoted

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

WEAVER – When Gary Atchley accepted the Weaver football coaching job earlier this year he knew he’d have some decisions to make.

He was now the head coach of three major sports at the school – football, girls basketball and softball – and as much as he would have liked to, he knew for success and sanity’s sake he couldn’t keep them all.

Weaver principal Andy Keith confirmed Tuesday night Weaver alum and junior high coach Jamie (Merritt) Burns will become the Lady Bearcats’ new varsity girls basketball coach. 

On the surface, basketball was the logical choice to surrender, if for no other reason than time management. If the Bearcats have a successful year in football, the end of the season would overlap with the start of basketball. Still, it wasn’t an easy decision.

“I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this decision; it was a tough one, for sure,” he said. “I’m torn up that I’m not coaching the girls basketball team. We won a lot of ballgames and did a lot of good stuff. It hurts. I love coaching them girls. It just came down to I needed a break between softball and basketball to get my bearings right.

“I’m just one guy. I love coaching these kids at Weaver, but I can’t do it all.”

One of the most colorful coaches in the county, Atchley just completed his sixth season with the Lady Bearcats’ girls basketball team. 

During that tenure, he had winning records each of the last four years, went to the sub-state three years in a row and won back-to-back area championships. In his third season the Lady Bearcats went 21-9 and went to the regionals for the first time in 25 years.

“I’m not going far from basketball,” he said. “My daughter (Madison) is there. I’m not going to be a spit distance away from that program. I’m not going to be a meddling father, but I’m going to make sure the program keeps going in the direction it has been going.”

The responsibility of keeping it in the road going forward falls to Burns and Atchley has thrown his support her way.

She has coached Weaver’s junior high girls team for the last seven years and won a junior high county championship when the juniors she’s inheriting were seventh-graders.

“I’m super excited about it,” she said. “I’m a little nervous, of course, but I’ve got a great support system personally and professionally, so I’m excited. I think we’ll be competitive and it will be fun to be with them again.” 

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