Hammons finds 'right time' to leave Mercer

December 07, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

HARRODSBURG - Duane Hammons said the Mercer County football program is better than it was when he became head coach, and he said he believes it will continue to improve. But it will do so without him.

Hammons resigned Monday after six seasons as Mercer's coach, saying this is a good time for a change both for him and for the school.

He said no single factor prompted his decision, which he told school officials of one day after the team's banquet.

"I felt like it was the right time," Hammons said. "It's probably best for the program and best for me to let them have a new start."

Hammons declined to say what his future in football might be, but he did say he has one. He would not comment on reports that he will join Mark Peach's coaching staff at Anderson County next season.


"I'm really not ready to say anything," he said. "I've got some offers on the table. I'll probably be coaching somewhere. I'm not ready to walk away from football totally yet, but this is a good time for me to step back from the head coaching position.

Rumors that Hammons might step down began surfacing even before the season ended, but he said his players were surprised when he broke the news in a team meeting Monday.

"If you're a 16-year-old kid, you're not going to believe it until it happens," he said.

Hammons has spent the last 16 years with the Mercer football program, working as an assistant under four different coaches before being promoted to head coach in 1999.

Highest winning percentage in school history

He posted a 40-26 record in six years, and he leaves with the highest winning percentage (.606) of any coach in school history and the school's second-highest win total.

"I think we've accomplished a lot," Hammons said. "I think our team has gotten a lot better. We've really become someone to reckon with in the district every year. We've been able to accomplish several of the goals we had."

He said there are more good days ahead for the Scotties.

"It's not a talent issue," he said of his decision. "I think the team will be better next year than this year. I really think Mercer's on the verge of being able to explode."

Mercer lost two of its first three games this season but finished the regular season at 6-4 after winning its last three games - including its first win in four tries against district powerhouse Lloyd Memorial. The Scotties' season ended with a 21-14 loss to Morgan County in the first round of the Class AA playoffs.

Hammons' teams made the playoffs during each of his years as head coach, and the Scotties earned two of the school's four district runner-up trophies - they tied for first place in both instances but lost the district title on the tiebreaker - and two of the three home playoff games in school history during his tenure.

"We've developed a very good JV program, our numbers are up, our work ethic is good," he said. "I feel very proud of what I've done. I feel like I've been a part of starting the tradition."

Hammons said his biggest disappointment was that Mercer didn't win a playoff game during his six years.

"I felt like we got over the hump in several categories, but we had several opportunities to win playoff games. I wasn't able to produce that, and it kind of wears on you," he said.

Hammons said assistant coach Bart Bredar will run the program while the school searches for Hammons' replacement.

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