PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast's Kenneth Long, the dean of MACJC softball coaches, is retiring after 18 seasons.
"When I look back on my time at Gulf Coast, I think about the players who had such an impact and helped us win almost 600 games," he said. "I think about the people, the administrators and athletic directors that helped me do what we did while I was there. I thought it was a good run, myself."
The coach of all but one season of fast-pitch softball at Gulf Coast, Long retires with a 584-232 record, an eye-popping .716 winning percentage. His teams won four MACJC and four NJCAA Region 23 titles. The Lady Bulldogs also won six MACJC South Division championships.
A search for his replacement will begin immediately.
He's been named MACJC and Region 23 Coach of the Year three times, and he won the Mississippi Association of Coaches Community College Softball Coach of the Year in 2015. Four Lady Bulldogs teams advanced to the national championship tournament, with the 2007 team finishing third.
Of all the great memories Long accumulated, one stands out from the school's first trip to the NJCAA Tournament in 2007.
"That very first tournament, we were getting ready to play for the first time," he said. "We were walking down the sidewalk and I could hear the cleats scraping on the sidewalks. It just gave me chill bumps."
Long particularly wanted to thank the scores of players he coached at Perkinston. More than 40 players have gone on to continue their softball careers at four-year schools, and eight Lady Bulldogs have been named All-Americans.
Long took over the Gulf Coast program in 2002 after coaching East Central High School to the MHSAA Class 4A state championship in 2001. He coached in Hurley from 1997-2001.
He and his wife Janelle have three children and three grandchildren they'll get to spend more time with.
"Janelle and I want to travel some," Long said. "This will free us up to do some of that. We've got a very small bucket list we want to do and our health is good. I feel like, over those 18 years, we built that program and left it in as good a shape as I knew to leave it."
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