2009 All-Rowan County Basketball, Girls coach of the Year: Salisbury's Andrew Mitchell
By Bret Strelow
Salisbury coach Andrew Mitchell awoke from a lengthy nap as the team bus rolled into the school’s parking lot on a Saturday evening in mid-March.
“I said to the team, ‘Practice on Monday,’ ” Mitchell recalled.
The directive drew strange looks from several players, notably Bubbles Phifer.
Earlier that day in Chapel Hill, the Hornets had completed their run to a state title by beating Graham in the 2A final.
“You’re just so used to, after a game, you go back to practice,” Mitchell said with a laugh. “Bubbles was the first one to say, ‘You might be there, but I won’t.’ ”
With Phifer putting forth an MVP performance, Salisbury’s girls won their second championship in the last six seasons and helped Mitchell achieve one of his career goals.
Mitchell, Rowan County’s girls coach of the year, took over the Hornets’ program last May. He led Livingstone College to a CIAA Tournament title in 2000, but he’s always strived for a perfect record and a season-ending championship.
At the high school level, a state title is the ultimate accomplishment.
“The people who trusted and believed in you, to be able to satisfy them was a reward,” Mitchell said. “Every time I see the game or pictures, the thing that brings tears to my eyes is to see all those smiling faces on those young ladies.
“They deserve about 98 percent of the credit. I’ll take one percent and my assistant coaches the other one. Three coaches in three years, and they were able to humble themselves and be able to play the style I want to coach.”
An undefeated season it wasn’t, but Salisbury (29-3) took satisfaction in finally overtaking conference rival East Davidson.
East swept the Hornets during the regular season and defeated them in the CCC tournament final. Salisbury pulled out a 26-24 decision against the Golden Eagles in the Western Regional final, then won 56-41 against Graham.
“He’d make sure we didn’t get down, and he’s just a phenomenal guy,” said Salisbury senior Shi-Heria Shipp, the county player of the year. “He stuck in there with us. Sometimes it was rough, but we got through it.”