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|Moak hanging up basketball whistle|
The person who has been a fixture on the Huntington girls basketball sidelines for years will not be there in 2008-09.
Penny Moak has resigned as head girls basketball coach at the Ferriday school.
Moak, who graduated from Huntington in 1978, is retiring as girls head basketball coach after 17 years as a head coach and a 243-179 career record.
Moak said she made the decision not to return in April.
"I think a lot of people thought I would change my mind, but it's set," she said. "If I was just doing coaching basketball, it would be different. But I'm still going to be teaching and that makes for a long day. Right now I would be just starting for the season. It takes eight months out of the year."
Moak said she will continue to coach cross country and girls track.
"I think the girls basketball program needed a change," she said. "I've had this bunch since seventh grade and we haven't won the last two years."
Moak's youngest daughter, Julie, will be a senior this year.
"I have mixed emotions about that," Penny said. "But it was hard getting into the job the last couple of years. And it would always be coaching one more year for this kid or that. Julie is fine with it and she sees the other side of it. I think she will enjoy having me there when she gets home with a hot meal ready for her."
Penny Latham Moak certainly knows the rigors of being a student-athlete in high school. She was an all-district and All-State basketball player at Huntington when the Ferriday school competed in Louisiana Independent Schools Association.
Moak played for Dorothy Ulmer, who was a member of Martha Paul's state championship teams at Ferriday High.
"Mrs. Ulmer had a great influence on my life," Moak said. "She was a great coach and fun to be around. I guess you could say I followed in her footsteps - coaching and teaching math. I can't put myself in the same category as her - after all she did receive a national teaching award and got to go to Washington to meet the President. That's a hard act to follow."
Moak was selected for the MPSA All-Star Game and walked on at Northeast Louisiana University, where Linda Harper was beginning her first season as head coach.
"She said I was the last one picked and told me I was pretty rough around the edges, but there was something about my work ethics that she liked," Moak said. "I played a post position in high school and since I was only five-foot-seven I had to switch to a No. 2 guard position. I felt like a like a fish out of water."
Moak played in seven games her first year.
"I think Coach Harper did everything she could to try and get me to quit, but I was determined to show her," Moak said.
Two years later, Harper offered Moak a full scholarship.
"I was a starting guard in the majority of the games my final 2 years, mainly for my defense," she said. "I was an all-time top 10 free-throw shooter there at one time, but after 30 years I'm sure that has changed."
Actually, that has not changed. One look at the ULM Media Guide will find the name of Penny Latham listed No. 8 among all-time free throw percentage as she made 85 of 113 for a .752 percentage, tied for that spot with former NLU All-American Eun Jung Lee, who played from 1983-86.
The NCAA Women's Tournament was originated in Moak's senior year at ULM.
"We all ganged up at Coach Harper's house to watch La. Tech," Moak said. "I actually guarded her at one time. They always kicked our tails. One of my most memorable experiences was the year we played LSU at the LAIAW State Tournament at Louisiana Tech. LSU was the No. 3 seed in the tournament and we were a bunch of nobodies. We upset them in the quarter finals. It was a great experience." Moak started coaching basketball at Block High in 1982.
After one year in Jonesville where she led the Lady Bears to a 26-5 record (starting out 18-0), Moak spent three years at East St. John in Laplace.
"Huey was in Medical School in New Orleans and we were getting married in June of 1983," she said.
Moak taught math her first year at East St. John before taking over as head girls basketball coach the next two years.
"The girls never made the playoffs before I got there and we got beat in the first round my first year and made it to the quarterfinals my second year," Moak said. "They were so much into it and very appreciative."
Moak was named Times-Picayune All-Metro Girls Coach of the Year in 1985.
When Huey accepted a residency at Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge, Penny resigned at East St. John and joined Parkview Baptist School in Baton Rouge.
Moak taught the first year because oldest daughter Jessi was four months old at the time. She took the girls head coaching job in 1987.
"The girls had not won a single game the year before in LISA (Louisiana Independent Schools Association) and it just so happened Parkview would be competing in the LHSAA my first year," Moak said. "I must have been out of my mind."
Parkview Baptist went 8-12 and finished third in district in its first year under Moak and in the public school system.
"That was pretty rewarding, even though it was my first losing season," she said. "To them, it was like winning a state title."
Huey finished his residency in 1988 and the Moaks moved back to Ferriday.
"I was pregnant with Katie and decided not to teach, even though I had put in an application with the Concordia Parish School System," Penny said.
In January of 1989, Ferriday High principal Fred Butcher called Moak and asked her to teach math for the remainder of the school year.
"Joan McFarland was the girls' basketball coach at that time and Ferriday was pretty good," Moak said. "She asked me to be here assistant the next year. I had never been an assistant before, but I knew she was a good coach and thought I might learn something, so I accepted the job."
The Lady Trojans won district, but lost to Rayne in the state quarterfinals.
Moak then took some time off to raise their final daughter, Julie.
"I began teaching at Huntington in 1991, but with three young children it was next to impossible to coach," Moak said. "I started back coaching in 1993. I only coached junior varsity for the first two years, but it was a lot of fun. Abbey Grant, Kate Clifton, Jenny Smith and Summer Milliken were among the first group that I coached. They were an amazing bunch of athletes in junior high. Back then they had South Regional Championships for junior varsity, and that group won it. I will never forget that bunch. At the end of the season they gave me a framed picture of the team holding the championship trophy with their record of 28-2 engraved. I knew they were going be good when they were seniors."
Greg Weatherly led that team to the state runner-up title in 1997.
"I'm just sorry I didn't get to coach them, but Greg did a good job with them," Moak said. "Coach Weatherly left after that and I started coaching varsity the next year. It was probably the most rewarding year I had in basketball at Huntington. I had coached most of the girls in JV and they really were a special group to me. We still keep in contact with each other."
That Lady Hound team finished 27-12, losing to Kemper Academy 46-43 in the first round of the MPSA Class A State Tournament.
Milliken was the lone senior on that team. Lindsey Jones, Casey Iverstine, Deanna Freeman, Brandi Barron and Leah Gray were top scorers on that team.
"They were probably the most competitive bunch that I had ever coached, but they kept things in perspective," Moak said.
Moak will still be a regular at Lady Hound games, and said she may even spend time at the scorer's table assisting with the clock and scorebook.
"I'm going to enjoy watching the games," she said. "It will be nice to have some extra time on my hands."
And she will also still have the role of coach - with cross country and girls track.
"The crazy thing is I spent all those years dealing with basketball, but my real love is track," said Moak, who set two state records in high school at Huntington and won State in the 880-run with a time of 1:30.06, finishing second in the 110-hurdles. She was also a member of two state championship teams at Huntington. "NLU didn't have track when I first came in 1978, but they later added it in 1980. I did run for them my junior year on the 2-mile relay team that qualified for the NCAA meet in Pennsylvania, but because of funding issues we weren't allowed to go. I didn't run my senior year. It was pretty time consuming and my scholarship was for basketball."
Moak has been named MPSA Coach of the Year in Cross Country on two different occasions after staring the cross country program in 1999.
Huntington has finished among the top four teams every year it has competed in cross country, winning the Class A titles in 2002 and 2003.
"The 2003 championship was really special because it was Jessi's senior year," Moak said. "Jessi and I have actually discussed training for a marathon in the near future."
Moak said she would not trade her time as basketball coach for anything.
"But it's time to slow down and relax a little," she said.
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