After over 30 years as a coach and a teacher in the Sunflower County School District, Ruleville Central High School’s Don Bankhead has decided to retire. Bankhead’s last day at Ruleville Central was on Tuesday.
In 1984, Bankhead, who had started his coaching career as a boys and girls basketball coach at East Sunflower Middle School in 1980, was hired at Ruleville Central where he has remained for 28 of the last 29 years coaching numerous sports.
Bankhead said he felt the time to retire had come.
“A coach I used to know said ‘can’t nobody tell you when it’s time,’” Bankhead said. “It’s going to happen to you, and you’ll know yourself. I feel like the last two months, I wanted to say this is it and do something else before I get a certain age. I just wanted to venture out and do something else.”
The 58-year-old has been the head boys basketball coach at Ruleville during his long tenure at the school. He guided the Tigers to the 2A State Championship with a 28-6 record in 1992. The Tigers were also 2A state runners-up in 1995 with a 28-8 record and again in 2003 with a 28-7 record. In 2008, the Tigers advanced to the 3A State Tournament and finished that year with a 27-8 record. This past year, Ruleville went 18-8 and competed in the 3A North Half Playoffs. Overall, he guided the Tigers to 15 district championships.
In addition to his time as boys basketball coach, he has served as head girls basketball coach and head football coach, guiding both programs to several winning seasons with two division championships in football and six in girls basketball. The Tigers advanced to the 2A North Half Football Title game in 1998 under Bankhead with an 11-2 record, while the Lady Tigers advanced to the 2A State Girls Basketball Tournament with a 25-8 record in 2003 under Bankhead’s leadership. Bankhead’s 1998 season in football earned him a spot on the coaching staff in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star football game. He has also served as the boys and girls track coach and the school’s athletic director.
Bankhead said over the course of his career, he served in every capacity he could for Ruleville.
“I was telling some of my former players and people that the first three years at Ruleville, I really didn’t get a supplement for coaching basketball,” Bankhead said. “When I started coaching the girls, I didn’t get a supplement. I did it, because I liked the game of basketball. At the time, they didn’t have anyone that wanted to do the job so I did it.
“Later on, they lost their football coach, and they asked me to be the head football coach for a couple of years,” Bankhead added. “I ended up being more than what they asked me. We didn’t have an athletic director at that particularly time, so I was the athletic director for a while as well as administrative assistant and bus supervisor.”
Bankhead said a great blessing that he’s experienced is watching the kids he’s coached grow up and mature into responsible young men and women.
“The players that I’ve coached have kids going to school and I’ve coached those kids,” Bankhead said. “Some of those kids that I’ve taught are now football coaches and assistant basketball coaches. People I had on the football team coaching were some of my former students.”
Ruleville Central Principal Dr. Darron Edwards said Bankhead has meant more to the school than just coaching.
“Coach Bankhead has definitely had a tremendous impact on our community and our students as well as the school,” Edwards said. “In the past three years since I’ve been at Ruleville Central High School, the role he’s that he’s played has been unparalleled. We went from a failing school to a successful school in two years. The role he played in that process was definitely felt in athletics as well as student achievement. He is definitely an icon for the community and a legend for a county. He is going to be missed.”