Mt. Hermon basketball coach Alford retires

Published 12:57 am Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Mt. Hermon School has named Josh Priola as its new boys basketball head coach, replacing B. Alford, who retired after a lengthy career at Mt. Hermon.
Alford spent 42 years with the Yellow Jackets and 37 years as a head coach. Most of his head-coaching career was with boys basketball team, with several of the 37 years as the girls basketball team’s head coach.
In his career, Alford guided the boys basketball team to a state runner-up finish in 1998. Also in 1998, he was the Class B Coach of the Year. The Yellow Jackets reached the semifinals in 2003 and the quarterfinals seven times.
Alford’s boys teams won 19 district titles. Over his 37 years of being a head coach, his teams reached the playoffs 32 times.
Alford also coached track for several years.
Alford spent plenty of time with basketball. He played high school basketball and graduated from Spring Creek High School. Alford said he played on the wing.
Spring Creek was about eight miles from Mt. Hermon and consolidated to become Jewel Sumner.
After high school, Alford went to the University of Southern Mississippi and graduated from there in August of 1975. At the end of that month, he started at Mt. Hermon. He began his coaching career at age 21.
“What’s odd is I went to Spring Creek High School and I didn’t like Mt. Hermon. They were our rival and we were in the same district. I had friends there, but I never saw myself going there,” Alford said.
Alford said that he did his student teaching at Franklinton under Paul Smith.
“I really enjoyed my time in Franklinton and could have seen myself staying there. W.C. Cook came up to me at a ballgame and he told me there would be an opening at Mt. Hermon for junior high head coach and high school assistant,” Alford said. “His teams were always competitive and I thought being his assistant would be very advantageous for me.
“I was his assistant for five years and we went from there. I lived across the parish line, so I knew a lot of people. I had some great kids that are my friends to this day. That’s what sold it. The faculty was a very strong faculty. It was the type of place you would want your children to go to school.
“In most years, we had competitive talent and it was fun. I tell people that I’ve been very fortunate that my job has been my hobby. The people there have been very supportive of me and my family. It has been a great place. It is just really a special place.”
Alford said that one of the toughest times, but also most rewarding times, was in 1983.
The school burned that year and that season and the following one, the Yellow Jackets practiced at Vernon School. Vernon School was a community school that consolidated with Mt. Hermon at the time of integration. Alford said that they finished out the 1983 season and part of the following season while the school was being built.
Alford said that he was very appreciative of Vernon School for letting the team use their gym.
“They were a life saver,” Alford said. “It was cold in the gym, so I let them practice in gloves unless they were doing shooting drills. Our gym was made into about 12 classrooms. The community helped construct those. We had to go pick up kids for lunch in a bus.
“One of the things I remember was that we had some real competitive teams. We won about 30 games those two years — 28 one year and 31 the next. We didn’t have any home games. Jewel Sumner let us use their gym for home games. Whenever anybody mentions Jewel Sumner, I’m always appreciative of them. It was a sad time for our school, but a very positive because of the way the community rallied around us.”
Alford said that he would like to thank everybody that has ever helped the program over his years.
Mt. Hermon principal Dawn Seal said that Alford is an icon.
I consider him to be an icon in this community,” Seal said. “The school, the kids and the community in general will miss him because he put 42 years into this community. Forty-two years, that just speaks volumes.”
Priola takes over the boys basketball program.
Priola heads to Mt. Hermon after being the head coach of Mandeville High School’s boys’ junior varsity team and an assistant varsity coach with Mandeville this past season.
In college, Priola was a student worker at LSU under then-head coach Trent Johnson. When Johnson went to TCU, he took Priola with him and Priola finished his degree in kinesiology with a discipline in sports physiology.
After he graduated, there was a video coordinator spot open, so he took that position at TCU. After that, he was the video coordinator at Little Rock in Arkansas, and at the end of last summer, he was a special assistant at Little Rock.
In high school, Priola was a point guard at Mandeville High School, playing for his father John Priola, who will be the principal at Pearl River High School beginning next school year.
Josh Priola graduated from Mandeville in 2009.
“I’m really excited,” Priola said. “What drew me to Mt. Hermon is that it’s a basketball community. I didn’t know much about Mt. Hermon except that it’s a basketball community. The kids here eat, sleep and breathe basketball.”
Priola talked about how much being a coach’s son helps.
“I think that’s big because I got to see all aspects of it. Basketball is my life. At the dinner table, we talked basketball. I think that’s a huge part of it,” Priola said.
Priola, 27, talked about what he brings to the job.
“I bring excitement, energy, passion and about 27 years of being around basketball,” Priola said.
Seal said that Priola is young, enthusiastic and that he knows the game.
“Josh has already been up here on campus for a couple of days. Our kids are eager to talk to him and hear what he has to say about the game. He definitely came in with a very good resume. His resume was impressive,” Seal said.

Josh Priola