Despite a late run in the 2019-20 Sylacauga High School girls basketball campaign that saw the Lady Aggies reach the Class 5A Elite Eight, the Derrick Crawford era officially came to a close during the Sylacauga City Board of Education’s virtual meeting Thursday night.
The board voted 4-0 to terminate Crawford from the supplemental position, with board member Janean Crawford abstaining.
The coach ended his run with Sylacauga with a 301-127 record in 16 seasons as head coach.
“It’s been an outstanding 30-plus years of me working with the Sylacauga girls basketball program,” Crawford said. “I love my school. I love my kids. We had it going in the right direction, but apparently, they felt like the program is not going in the right direction … This group of kids we had this past season, all they did was get better and better.”
In the past seven seasons, Crawford led the Lady Aggies to three area titles, three regional championship appearances, two Final Four appearances and a state finals appearance in 5A.
During Sylacauga’s march to the state finals in the 2013-14 season, the team went on a 20-game winning streak that ended in a 57-46 loss to state champion Wenonah.
“It’s been a good run,” Crawford said. “We played for three regional championships over the past seven years. We had numerous girls go on to play collegiate ball. Those are the things I’m proud of. I’m proud because we did it the right way and the kids worked extremely hard.”
Sylacauga City Schools Superintendent Dr. Jon Segars explained to the board why he made the recommendation.
“If you remember back in November as we started basketball season, we did have some issues with the girls basketball program,” Segars said. “We discussed those issues, but certainly in support of those young ladies and those parents, getting the basketball season started was important, and then we would take a look throughout the sports season with our co-athletic directors and make a determination on how well this program is run and not run.”
Segars said the review uncovered several problem areas for the program.
“One, not foremost in athletics, but the most glaring thing is the inability to win games consistently,” he said. “For three years, our winning percentage was down below one-third (0.333), but, of course, winning in sports isn’t everything.
“What we found was there was poor communication with parents (and) a lack of financial responsibility as the program was in debt.
“We had low participation rates, and what we saw was, at the same time, our boys program flourishing under a new coach and that had flourished under a previous coach. So we had a great boys program going, and we can have an equal or better than that (girls) program. We have that potential.”
Segars said Crawford will remain as an assistant football coach and track and field coach.
“These seasons collide with each other,” Segars said. “There’s a problem with overlap in football, and when you devote your attention to a football team, it is hard to grow a girls basketball team. Sports are coached year-round, and we have to have that to develop a program.”
The Lady Aggies fell to eventual 5A champion Charles Henderson 76-22 in the Elite Eight at Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery, two games after Crawford earned his 300th career win. Sylacauga won eight of its last 13 games after a 2-12 start.
“We had it set up and we had great pieces coming back to where we felt good about it,” Crawford said. “Whoever inherits it will have a chance to have some success immediately because there’s some really good pieces in place for them to do well.”