When a coach as accomplished as David Tucker offered to help, McMinn County was going to find a way to make it happen.
And so Tucker, 68, is back where he started his high school coaching career, where he will be the interim head coach for the girls’ basketball program, McMinn athletic director Bo Cagle confirmed to The Daily Post-Athenian on Tuesday night.
According to Cagle, Tucker will serve as interim coach until the moment current Lady Cherokees’ head coach Tim McPhail, who is still recovering from a stroke he suffered in March and undergoing treatment for brain tumors, decides to return to duty.
“Basically he had contacted us and wanted to help Tim,” Cagle said. “He loves McMinn and wanted to do what he could do to help the family and help our school and help our girls’ basketball team. And we had conversations about how he could get in here and coach for as long as he was needed, and we ended up being able to work it out where he could be able to get here and do that.
“And David, he is doing it for the right reasons, one of them was if Tim was able to coach in two months, then David would step back and let him have the team back. It’s just one of those things where he’s coming in and helping us out, and it’s exciting to have him back, obviously.”
Assistant coaches Lynn Monroe and Shaunte Long had been guiding the Lady Tribe through summer workouts and basketball camps, and Cagle said having the assistants continue to guide the girls’ basketball program through this coming season was the top option before Tucker offered to come aboard as interim head coach.
According to Cagle, McPhail notified the school that he was not likely to return to his coaching duties this coming season — although that plan could always change depending on the prognosis of his recovery.
“And when Tim let us know that he’s just going to not coach this year, because he didn’t feel like he could do that, and we told him that if he was planning on coming back, we want him to come back when he was able to,” Cagle said. “So if he wanted to come back mid-season, then we want him to be able to do that. So the top option at that point was to let his assistants run the program.”
Tucker is arriving back at McMinn after spending the last three seasons as the boys’ basketball head coach at Tellico Plains, his high school alma mater. The Bears experienced success under Tucker’s direction, with a 40-35 record over that three-year tenure. Tellico won the District 4-A championship in 2019, finished as district runners-up this past season and reached the Region 2-A semifinals in 2019 and 2021.
“But then when David Tucker offers up his services, we’ve got to figure out if we can make that work,” Cagle said.
“And it worked out for us to be able to do that.”
Tucker got his head coaching career started at McMinn County, where he was the girls’ head basketball coach from 1986-1998. During his tenure at McMinn, the Lady Cherokees won the District 5-AAA championship in 1988 and the Region 3-AAA title in 1993.
After leaving McMinn, Tucker coached the boys’ basketball team at Charleston High School, and when that school closed down to open Walker Valley High School, he coached the girls at WV until 2010, winning a pair of District 5-AA championships and leading the Lady Mustangs to a state tournament berth in 2005 along the way. Then he moved to Georgia.
Tucker coached the boys and girls at Union County High School in Blairsville, Georgia, for seven years, picking up his 700th career win along the way. He was also the head coach of both basketball teams at Woody Gap School in Suches, Georgia, for the 2017-2018 season, before returning to Tellico Plains.
Tucker could not be reached for comment as of deadline Tuesday night.