Over the last 12 years, Holmes Community College Head Softball Coach Ricky Casey helped put the Lady Bulldogs softball program on the map both on the playing field and in the classroom. Casey recently announced his retirement as head coach.
During his years at Holmes, Casey helped lead the Lady Bulldogs to the postseason three times and also spearheaded a push to bring in quality athletes, both on the field and in the classroom. The Lady Bulldogs, as a team, have ranked highly in the state and nation in GPA and also had many players named to the MACJC and NJCAA All-Academic Teams as individuals.
"It was an honor to get hired," said Casey, who is also a Holmes' alumnus. "It is the best job I've ever had."
The Ethel High School graduate and Attala County native made his mark in two sports at Holmes Community College –men's basketball and track. He made All-State in basketball after his sophomore season in 1974. He was a member of the MACJC state championship track team in 1973 and was state champion in the mile run his sophomore season. He was named Most Athletic at Holmes in 1974 and was named to the Holmes Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
After Holmes, Casey attended Millsaps College, where he lettered in basketball two years and was chosen most valuable player in 1976 and 1977. Casey graduated from Mississippi State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Math Education.
Casey said one of things he stressed with his teams is that they should enjoy their time at Holmes and make friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. "It goes by so fast," Casey said. "Don't take it for granted. It is two years you won't ever get back, and it's probably the best two years of your life.
"I enjoyed it when I was here as a player," he said. "I played for Bennie Kimble. He worked the snot out of us. I tell every class that I want them to look back and say I really enjoyed that (being at Holmes). If they are able to say that means you have been successful."
When Casey arrived in Fall 2006, he inherited a team of 11 players so he began seeking out players.
"We were recruiting players in the hallway and started the season with 13," Casey said. "We finished the season with nine players after we had players get hurt. I enjoyed the recruiting but opening the state has made it a lot tougher. Not just for us but baseball, too."
Since Casey's arrival, Holmes has made an effort to improve softball facilities. A new grandstand, pressbox and concession stand were added to the field a few years before a softball fieldhouse was constructed complete with coaches' offices, home dressing room, storage and wash room and gameroom. The field has also received work with new irrigation including a sprinkler for the infield dirt.
"If you are going to get kids you have to upgrade the facilities," Casey said. "Dr. Boyce bought into that, and it helped us out a lot. We would not have gotten the players we have if we hadn't upgraded our facilities. That's really helped the program. You have to give it to that."
As for the players' work in the classroom, Casey said the players knew what he expected of them. "You have got to give credit to the kids," he said. "We require study hall, but we don't stand over them. As far as academics, they did a great job."
Working with good people made Holmes a great place to work, he said. "That's what makes this job," Casey said. "Also, I enjoy dealing with the kids. We had our issues as does everybody but there was nothing we couldn't handle. I've been in the business a long time, and I enjoy dealing with the kids."
Casey's assistant, Christa Childress, came to Holmes in 2017 from after coaching at Three Rivers, Mo. for 17 years and has been named Casey's successor as head coach. He has no doubt Childress will do a great job.
"I think she'll do well," Casey said. "She knows what it takes to win and recruit at the junior college level. That was hardest thing on me when I got here, but she knows it already. She's really knowledgeable as far as pitching and hitting. I didn't have to tell her to do anything. She just stepped right in. She relates well with the girls."
Prior coming to Holmes, Casey coached boy's basketball and fastpitch softball at Union High School. Prior to Union, he coached football at Ethel High School, boy's basketball at Saks High School in Anniston, Ala., and boy's and girl's basketball at Durant High School.
Casey's wife, Wanda, works in the financial aid office on the Goodman Campus. The Caseys have three children, Scott, Emily and Jacob. Scott, and his wife, Lee, live in Philadelphia and has three boys, Kolby, Kaleb and Brady. Emily Goldman lives in Utah with her husband, Paul, with their son, Finn, while Jacob lives in Union with his wife, Baylee, where Jacob coaches fastpitch and slowpitch softball and teaches math at Union High School.
Casey plans to continue running the scoreboard for football and basketball games at Holmes and may dive off into refereeing MAIS basketball games.