ALBANY —After more than a decade as head coach of the Dougherty High School boys basketball team, Donald Poole has decided to retire.
In a letter he submitted to school officials earlier this week, Poole announced that his retirement became effective Tuesday — four days before the Trojans resume their post-Christmas schedule.
The longtime coach was terminated as Dougherty’s athletic director less than a month ago for allegedly allowing ineligible players to compete, and now Poole is retiring from the Dougherty County School System as both a teacher and a coach.
Poole told The Herald on Thursday that his removal as A.D. had nothing to do with his decision to retire.
“Me retiring didn’t have anything to do with me being removed as A.D. or not,” said Poole, who had been the head basketball coach for the past 12 years. “It had been in my head for the last two or three years. I just felt like it was time to move on. I felt like it was time to look at something different.”
Dougherty County athletic director Johnny Seabrooks confirmed that longtime assistant coach Ty Hayes will be taking over the Trojans’ basketball team starting with Saturday’s game against Calhoun County. Seabrooks also said the school’s administration has agreed to allow Hayes, who was an assistant under Poole for the past 12 years, to finish out the year as interim head coach.
Poole said Hayes, who is also the head baseball and softball coach, is the perfect man to fill his shoes.
“He will be a pretty good coach as far as him being there and making decisions,” Poole said. “He made some decisions with me as far as us working together. Now is his opportunity to step into the limelight.
Poole’s retirement still needs to be accepted by the school board, but he said he will miss being a leader for both his students and players.
“The biggest thing I liked about the teaching and coaching was the kids,” he said. “I liked having kids with different personalities and teaching them to do the right things in school. There are a lot of things you will miss about being both a coach and a teacher.”
Poole said his current players took the news well.
“I told them that sometimes you have to make big life decisions, and that I had made the decision to retire,” he said. “They are a good group, and I told them to stay together and just continue to do what they are doing.”
Poole was removed as A.D. in early December after serving in that role at Dougherty High for 11 years.
In a letter obtained by The Herald last month, Dougherty High Principal Robert McIntosh alleged that Poole violated GHSA By-Laws by allowing ineligible players to compete under his leadership as A.D.
“Based upon our discussions and my review of athletics at DCHS, I am not satisfied with the current state of affairs within our athletic department,” McIntosh wrote in the letter, which was addressed to Poole. “Most specifically, your admission of practicing and playing students without having physicals on file places our school system in significant jeopardy, and is in violation of GHSA By-Laws. You also admitted to allowing students to practice and play before their eligibility had been approved by GHSA.”
Jerome Register, who was named Dougherty’s interim A.D. after Poole’s removal, said on Thursday that Poole’s job as head basketball coach and head track & field coach would have been re-evaluated at the end of the season along with the rest of the school’s coaches.
“His season had not finished yet, so there wouldn’t have been any decision made (about removing him or keeping him as coach) until after the season,” Register said.