Photo by Derrick Mahone
After 14 years of coaching boys basketball, Tu Willingham switched this past season to coaching the girls’ program at Mundy’s Mill, which has a 10-4 record so far this season.
After 14 years as a successful boys basketball coach, Tu Willingham decided he needed a change in his life.
A new challenge.
This summer, he found that challenge when he decided to switch from coaching the Mundy’s Mill High boys team to heading the girls’ program.
It seems to be a good fit so far.
The Lady Tigers are 10-4 overall and 6-2 in Region 4-AAAA.
“It was a great move for me professionally,” said Willingham, whose team is currently third in the region standings. “As a coach, you are always looking for new challenges. I think it was time for the boys team to have a new look.
“The worst thing you can do as a coach is stick around when you are not as effective. I think 13-12 was a great way to end my last season as the boys coach.”
But the Tigers were returning their entire starting lineup with a few young stars in the making. Willingham said there is no regret in not coaching one more season with the boys program.
“As a coach, you are always thinking about one more year,” he said. “I didn’t want to be selfish in my decision. It was the right move.”
Although this is his first season coaching females in basketball, Willingham said it was a smooth transition since he is the father of three daughters.
“My philosophy is that I don’t coach boys or girls, but athletes,” Willingham said. “I live in a house full of women, so I told them (team) there was nothing they could tell me that I haven’t heard.”
Forest Park coach Steven Cole can relate to Willingham’s experience. He coached the boys teams at North Clayton and Forest Park before moving over to coach the Lady Panthers’ program.
“Coaching girls is a little easier, because they don’t have that I-know-it-all attitude,” Cole said. “They follow the instructions.”
Willingham said he is enjoying coaching a lot better now, because he is taking the time to enjoy the wins.
“I’m sort of smelling the roses while I get them now,” he said. “When I was coaching the boys we had four 20-win seasons in a row, and I was always worried or thinking about the next season. Now, I’m enjoying every game and win.”
Willingham has implemented what he calls the “24-hour rule” after every game. Win or lose, he says he doesn’t start thinking or talking about the next opponent until the following day.
“This has done wonders for me,” Willingham said. “I’ve had people around the school say that I look so refreshed now. This is probably something I should have done a few years ago.”