JAN SISK LAWRENCE Staff Writer
THAYER -- After 22 years of coaching boys' basketball, Coach Cliff Hawkins is turning in his high top sneakers and changing career paths -- sort of.
Starting next school year Hawkins will coach golf and teach junior and senior high physical education at Thayer. He will also be athletic director.
Hawkins graduated from Williford High School in 1978 and from Arkansas State University in 1982.
Hawkins began his coaching career in Arkansas at Izard County Consolidated Schools. He coached basketball at ICC from 1983 to 1990.
This year was Hawkins' 16th year coaching boys' basketball at Thayer High School. His record at Thayer is 276-106. His overall coaching record is 426-155.
While at Thayer his teams have gone on to become district champs seven times, conference champs on three occasions and progressed to the state final four two times. He was selected as the South Central Association coach of the year in 2002, 2003 and 2005.
This year's Bobcat team had a 25-5 record. They won district, sectionals, the Liberty Tournament and the Cabool Tournament. The last four years the Bobcats have been to the class 2-A final four in the state one time and the 2-A final eight in the state three times.
Coach Hawkins said the Thayer basketball program is the most successful 2-A program in the state.
Besides coaching, he has taught health, drivers education and physical education.
Hawkins said the position of athletic director at the school consists of scheduling and handling all the sports contracts at the school. Besides other duties he will also be responsible for scheduling the gatekeepers and clock keepers for home games and sports bus drivers and schedules.
"Three years ago I told this group of boys, my son Layne among them, that when they graduated I was through coaching boys basketball," he said. Hawkins said many people in the community said they did not believe that would happen or they thought he was going to coach somewhere else. He is not.
"What I am going to do is what is most important to me. I am going to be a good parent. My daughter Lacey is still going to be at school at Thayer. I still want to be a daddy. I don't want to miss anything," he said.
He said he still loves the game of basketball and always will.
"My family comes first," the coach said.
Hawkins said he has truly enjoyed his years of coaching at Thayer. He said Thayer is the best place to coach in the world.
"All kids are special. You have to love them, and I do," he said.
"For the past 16 years Coach Hawkins has been the face of the athletic program at Thayer High School. Under his leadership the boys' basketball program has seen great success," said Thayer High School Principal Kevin Hedden.
"As successful and impressive as Coach Hawkins' coaching career has been at Thayer High School, I think the true measure of Cliff Hawkins' influence on our school and our community is the quality of young men he has helped mature and develop into good people and good citizens," Hedden said.
Hawkins and his wife Kayla married in 1982 and they have two children, Layne, who graduated this year from Thayer High School, and Lacey, who is 13.