NEW MARKET, Ala. — When Mark Blevins retired as Bearden High School’s boys basketball he wasn’t quite sure where the next leg of his professional journey would take him. But he found out rather
Blevins was recently named coach at Buckhorn High School in New Market, Ala., in suburban Huntsville.
He took the job late last month, shortly after working out a 30-day notice and retiring from Bearden and Knox County Schools. He began teaching American Government at Buckhorn after Buckhorn’s Spring Break, which concluded on Easter Sunday.
“The classroom part is going OK,” said Blevins, who left the Bulldogs program as its all-time wins leader. “They had a football coach down here who retired and pretty much did the same thing I did at Bearden.
“I’m teaching two government classes right now but they’ve promised me that I can teach my Americans at War class next year.”
Blevins compiled a record of 582-156 in 22 seasons at Bearden, where we won 22 district championships (either regular-season, tournament or both) and six region champions. He also made the State Sectional game 11 times and led the Bulldogs to six State Tournament appearances.
But his time at the school ended on a sour note as he was reprimanded and suspended for “unprofessional conduct” by the Bearden High School administration and Knox County Schools. He was suspended just hours before a District 4-AAA showdown against Hardin Valley Academy on Dec. 17. During his suspension from coaching, he was allowed to teach.
He received support from former players and fellow coaches while he was away from the game and later returned. He led the Bulldogs to the Region 2-AAA tournament and announced his retirement just hours after Bearden’s season ended on Feb. 27.
Now Blevins faces the challenge of resurrecting a once proud basketball program with the Bucks.
“They won three Class 5A State Championships,” Blevins said. “They won in 1960, 1991 and 1995 but they’ve fallen on hard times since then. There’s talent there, but everybody else in Huntsville is talented too.
“Huntsville is a lot like Memphis. If you get out of Huntsville, then you have a good shot at making it to the State Tournament. The [Class] 3A, 4A and 5A State Champions are all from the area. The 6A and 7A teams haven’t made it yet.”
Buckhorn last made the Class 5A Championship Game in 2006. It’s now a 7A school and the Bucks went 7-20 last season.
Blevins has wasted little time finding a home in Alabama.
“They’ve made me feel at home here but I have to win and I know that I have to win,” he said. “Our principal was a basketball coach here and our athletic director is a former football coach.
“They’ve promised me that they’re going to let me coach the way I coach. We’re all on the same page.”
Blevins, who left Bearden as one of Tennessee’s top social studies teachers, is no stranger to the Huntsville area.
“This is where I come to play baseball on the weekends and I know a lot of people here,” he said. “The last two seasons, we didn’t play a game on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
“I came down and watched a tournament here and Blackmon won it. I almost took a job here a few years ago but my former players asked me to stay [at Bearden]. I stayed out of the loyalty factor.”