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The Mississippi girls' basketball community reacted with a mixture of shock, sadness and concern Tuesday to the news that legendary Leake Academy coach Doyle Wolverton had resigned after allegations that he bit the face of one of his players during a timeout in a game a week earlier.
"It is kind of tragic and definitely shocking," said Reid McCay, coach of Columbia Academy, the opponent the night of the alleged incident. "Several of my coaching friends and I talked about it and said there are certain times you know it crosses the line but you might want to shove a kid in the stress of the moment, but I don't know about biting. That never crossed my mind.
"I was hoping maybe he was yelling at her and a tooth grazed her face, but it sounds like a little more than that."
According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the father of the player alleged in the police report that Wolverton grabbed the player "by the shirt and then bit her on the right side of the face" after a bad play.
Leake County Sheriff Greg Waggoner said the player was taken to a hospital emergency room in Carthage, Miss. Jackson's WJTV-Ch. 12 reported that a deputy took pictures of the bite mark.
McCay said he had "no idea it happened" during the game and heard about it the following day from friends related to students at Leake Academy.
"From what I could gather, it happened during a timeout in the second quarter. And of course, I was not looking at his team, I was looking at my team, so I was not aware of it at all," he said.
Wolverton was in his 39th season at the school and is the second all-time winningest girls basketball coach nationally with 1,245 victories, including 15 Class AA state championships.
Sammy Lindsey, coach of Central Academy in Macon, another Leake Academy opponent, related the story of a game the schools played against each other two weeks ago, when a JV player from Wolverton's team had to be restrained from hitting a Central player.
"After the game, [Wolverton] brought the girl over and made her apologize to my player," Lindsey said. "So that tells me he's a pretty stand-up guy. It really shocked me when I heard what happened."
Josh McNulty, coach of Simpson Academy, another opponent of Leake Academy's in Mendenhall, Miss., called his reaction "simple."
"It's not good that somebody with that type of record and reputation in coaching is now probably going to go down remembered not for his coaching career but for something stupid like this. But the thing is, everyone has to be accountable for his actions," McNulty said.
That was a common sentiment.
"What everybody around here says is that it took [nearly] 40 years to win 1,200 games, and in five seconds, you can destroy the kind of legacy you left," McCay said. "He's the second most winning active coach in America, and because of five seconds, when you see him at Walmart, he's not the guy who won 1,200 games but the guy who bit somebody. It's definitely a strange way to end a career."