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‘He’s the G.O.A.T.’

Tim Croft
tcroft@starfl.com
The Star

Take a close look at Coach Kenny Parker in the middle of the photo with his former players shot last Friday.

Parker’s Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School girls’ basketball team had just won its fourth consecutive district title, this one coming in District 4-1A.

The win also doubled as the 300th victory of Parker’s 17-year tenure as head coach of the Lady Tiger Sharks.

So, look closely at the photo; see a smile on Parker’s face despite that gaudy 300-165 record?

See any kind of grin after being presented with a plaque by Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton and Port St. Joe Jr./.Sr. High School Principal Josh Daily?

Not even with a magnifying glass; there is work to do this season, after all.

Parker’s long-stated goal has been to bring a state girls’ basketball championship to Port St. Joe.

The Lady Tiger Sharks have been painfully close, a regional final here, and a state semifinal there and last season even the state title game, but the ring eludes.

So his girls will be running “The Trail” this week as always, they will be scrimmaging as hard as ever and there will be no let up until Lakeland.

“He is a great coach,” said Hallie Jasinski, now playing for Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL. “He can be really hard on you but you come to understand it is about winning. He taught me everything I know.

“I went through high school thinking it was so tough, but I wish I could play for him again. I would do anything to have Coach Parker be my college coach.”

And that is a sentiment shared by other former players.

When it comes to his “girls,” he is deadly serious, on and off the court.

“Everybody thinks he’s mean and that all that but Coach Parker is the nicest person,” said another former player, Brooklyn Quinn. “He cares about his team, he cares about his girls, he cares about his community.

“Now, when it comes to basketball, he does not play.”

Long-time followers Port St. Joe athletics should, unsurprisingly, be reminded by such traits of another Tiger Shark basketball coach.

Prior to taking over the girls’ program, Parker was the top assistant for Coach Vernon Eppinette, for whom the floor of the Port St. Joe High School “Dome” is named, and with the two on the bench, the Tiger Sharks won four state titles and reached the title game a fifth time.

“People ask what the secret is and it is simple: you are going to be in shape,” Quinn said, adding Parker often spoke of what he learned from Eppinette about his team’s being in better shape than the others.

“We ran and we ran,” Quinn added with a laugh.

Hence “The Trail” that Jasinski talked about, a run outside players must finish in a given time when they reach the gym for practice.

Miss your time, Jasinski said, and you ran it again.

And the drill, the times, they were for everybody, just as playing time depended on a player’s performance in those drills and practice.

“He doesn’t care what your name is or how good you might be or anything, he does not play favorites,” Quinn said. “He is going to put the five players on the floor that give the best chance of winning.”

Quinn said the lessons extended beyond the lines of the court.

“I learned a lot and not just about basketball,” said Quinn, the former point guard. “He taught me that I was a natural-born leader.

He taught me to keep my head up, about the importance of having a plan and sticking with it.”

Quinn has taken her plan and aspirations to Tallahassee Community College with an eye on a four-year university in Georgia.

The 300 basketball wins are just corner of the portrait.

Parker also coaches the boys’ and girls’ track teams and he has won three state titles (one for the boys and two for the girls) as well as finishing second with the girls in 2009.

Parker has also been an assistant on football teams that won two state titles and finished second once.

In turn, he has coached all three of his children, Ash, Kayla and Alyssa.

But, at 57, Parker has no stated intention of retiring anytime soon; there is still a ring to chase.

“Coach Parker is the greatest coach,” Quinn said. “He is the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time). I would give anything to be able to play for him again.”