JCJC's tennis coach, Easley retires

|Shawn Wansley, JCJC's Sports Information Director

ELLISVILLE, Miss. - One of the top coaches in the MACJC has announced his retirement.

After 17 years, Mark Easley will retire as tennis coach at Jones County Junior College effective June 30 to concentrate solely on his position as Dean of Students Affairs.

Easley said the move away from the tennis courts has been in the works for a year.

“I had the opportunity to move into the Student Affairs office last July,” he said. “That was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I really hated to give up tennis, but in talking with (JCJC President) Dr. (Jesse) Smith, he allowed me to coach them one more year. We had a large number of new players coming in and I really wanted to help with the transition there.

“It’s going to be a different part of the campus I’m involved with, but this past year in Student Affairs went well.”

Easley said he relied on the previous Dean of Student Affairs – Dr. Sam Jones – during his first year in his new position.

“Dr. Jones was promoted to Vice President of Student Affairs,” Easley said. “He was a good sounding board and resource for me on any questions I had. The past year went well and I’m looking forward to being able to deal with that fulltime now.”

Easley’s tennis coaching record at JCJC has been impressive.

Overall, he is 355-145 (71 percent) with a 188-59 (76 percent) record on the women’s side and a 167-86 mark on the men’s side. That includes four MACJC and two Region 23 Tournament titles on the women’s side, along with 11 women’s and six men’s national tournament appearances.

“I am sure going to miss the tennis part of it after doing it for 17 years,” he said. “I’ve been coaching something – tennis, baseball, basketball, soccer, softball ­– since I got out of college 29 years ago. So, that’s going to be different.”

Easley’s teams went out on a high note in 2016.

The Lady Bobcats were 14-1, finished second in the MACJC/Region 23 Tournament and finished 18th in nationals in Tyler, Texas, while the men’s team was 11-5, finished third in the MACJC/Region 23 Tournament and finished 21st in nationals in Plano, Texas.

“I am glad Dr. Smith allowed me to coach one more year,” he said. “We had a great group – really every group we have had has been good. The last few days, I’ve been going over the names of players that have been here for the past 17 years and I can remember something about every one of those players from all of those teams.

“It’s been a good journey, for sure.”

Easley coached soccer and tennis at JCJC for his first seven years before concentrating on just tennis.

Prior to coming to Jones, he coached basketball and softball at Northeast Jones High School. He coached basketball at Neshoba Central High School in Philadelphia before going to NEJ.

Easley remembers his first season with the Bobcats.

“I started in the fall of 1999 and I really did not know many of the players because they had already been recruited and the team was fairly well set,” he said. “I started basically ‘cold turkey’ and then I went through each year with the recruiting and playing and all of the times we had together with each group.”

Easley notes the area where JCJC plays its home matches at the Howard Sports Complex has changed dramatically since 1999.

“The courts were fairly new when I got here,” he said. “But we only had the track, the field, the tennis courts and the tennis building down there. We played soccer down there for a couple of years before the stadium was built and football moved there (2003). The whole look on the South end of campus changed.

“That entire area – with the improvements of the baseball and softball fields – looks great. We just really have top-notch facilities here at Jones and the tennis courts are a part of that. We have some of the best on-campus courts in the state and that’s a credit to the administration back in the mid-90s for building those.

“A lot of schools across the state have upgraded their tennis facilities and I think it’s because they were trying to keep up with the Jones’s.”

Easley will still be keeping up with the Bobcat tennis program in the future.

But he will always have fond memories of the players and teams he has coached over the years.

“It is more than the tennis part of it,” he said. “It’s the relationships you build with your players that’s really important. I don’t think anybody comes through here with the idea that they are going to make a living playing tennis. They may have that goal and that’s great, but that’s not the ultimate.

“I want them to be able to play as long as they can at whatever level they are able to play. I also want to build those relationships with the players so that when they look back at their time at Jones they can say those were some of the best years of their lives.”

JCJC is expected to fill the tennis coaching vacancy soon.

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