Coach feels he’s just where he was meant to be

Jeffery and Patty Norwood are not only husband and wife but they are also basketball coaches at Tupelo High School.

It would seem that Jeffery Norwood was born into basketball. His whole life has been practically immersed in the sport. Today, the 54-year-old Tupelo native serves as head basketball coach for Tupelo High School’s boys’ team. Now in his fifth season at the school, he has held that position since 2012. Norwood’s late father, Steve Norwood, was a telephone installer for South Central Bell and was the first minority member of the Tupelo School Board. Jeffery Norwood is proud of his father’s accomplishment. “The thing that stands out in my life was his funeral in 2002,” Norwood said. “So many people attended that it was moved to the Tupelo Civic Center. I’m just proud to be his son. “So many people had great things to say about him. There were so many people there that it was hard to be sad.” His father’s legacy lives on in Norwood, who started out at Tupelo High School as basketball coach and Graduation Coach. The latter position offered Norwood a new perspective on teaching and counseling students. “I liked that,” he said of the position. “You help keep kids involved.” That included helping them fine-tune their efforts at studies as well as identifying “bad home situations.” “I followed them home,” Norwood said of going to students’ homes to assess their situations. “Sometimes kids are having problems the parents don’t know about. Sometimes the parents are the problem.” Though the position of Graduation Coach has been eliminated, Norwood said he is still often in that role in his coaching and role as physical education teacher: “It’s a constant,” he said. A graduate of Tupelo High School, Norwood headed south to Starkville, where he earned a BA in sociology and then a master’s in education; he played basketball at THS and Mississippi State University. He then served three years as assistant women’s basketball coach at MSU. Then he moved to Thibodaux, Louisiana, where he spent a year as assistant men’s basketball coach at Nicholls State University. He headed to Middle Tennessee State University for a three-year stint as assistant men’s basketball coach. He returned to Nicholls for another two years in his former position there; the team was conference champion that first year back. Norwood spent the next eight years as assistant men’s basketball coach at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. For the next two years after that, he worked for himself before again returning to basketball as assistant men’s coach at William Carey College, now William Carey University. After three years there, he came to Tupelo on a recruiting trip that turned into a new job when he himself was recruited for the job of THS basketball coach. “When I took this job, it was the first time in my life I felt I was exactly where the Lord wanted me to be,” said Norwood. “I said I would take the job before I even knew the salary or the duties.” Coincidentally, Norwood’s wife Patty, a former All-American basketball player, serves as assistant girls’ basketball coach at THS. Norwood said he would like to be involved with outside organizations but “30 young men keep me busy.” He is, however, involved with his church, The Orchard. His primary leisure pursuits are fishing and hunting: “I love to fish,” he said. “I like to hunt, too, but just don’t have as many opportunities for that.” Norwood also likes watching college basketball games; he attends MSU basketball games when he can and has also been known to attend the occasional Ole Miss game. Norwood and his wife have two daughters, Taylor Rae Norwood and Risa Witherow. They reside in Tupelo.

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