Airline turns back the clock to name new girls’ basketball coach

DIFFERENT ROLE:   Tucker Cox (left), sitting next to Parkway principal and former Bossier boys’ state champion coach Jeremiah Williams, is the new girls’ basketball coach at his alma mater, Airline. (Courtesy photo)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

Starting a little after 1 o’clock today, the Airline girls’ basketball program is going “Back to the Future.”

Forty years after his father Richard took over as the Lady Vikings coach, Tucker Cox is taking charge of the program, and he is eager to get going on a path hoping to match what his dad did.

That would be winning the state championship, the only one in Airline’s hoops’ history, in 1991-92, with a team led by Mary Ward – now the longtime Benton coach.

“What young athlete doesn’t look up to their dad as a coach,” he said, “and just admire every move they make. It’s what you dream of – you want to be like your dad, and now I’m following in his footsteps.”

The younger Cox knows something about taking state, though. He’s been an assistant to Gloria Williams at crosstown rival Parkway, which won the Non-Select Division I crown a month ago after a bitter double-overtime loss in the 2022 LHSAA championship game.

Cox, who will be 31 in July, is a proud 2011 Airline graduate who was a standout player for Chris White’s Vikings. He walked on for a year at Northwestern State under Mike McConathy, then came home to play for Joe St. Andre at Bossier Parish Community College before a knee injury stopped his bid to make the Louisiana Tech team as a walk-on.

Airline principal Justin James and athletics director Toby Todd announced the hiring of Cox Monday, replacing Lyndzee McConathy, who led the Lady Vikings for six seasons and developed a consistent playoff program. She stepped away to focus on parenting her young children and will be an assistant at Benton.

Cox was an assistant at Parkway for seven seasons after graduating from Tech, beginning as a student teacher. He had no intention of coaching girls’ basketball, but Williams had to take some time off due to illness and in the interim, Cox was persuaded to help the Lady Panthers in 2016-17.

“It’s been all girls’ basketball ever since,” he said.

Cox was buying new coaching whistles late Monday afternoon, then pulling up at his dad’s house.

“I’ve been so lucky to be around people who have been tremendous influences, people who love on kids, not only win ballgames but win at life, and teach kids how to act and do the right thing. That’s the same kind of standard I plan to bring as coach.

“My first two years at Parkway, we didn’t win 10 games combined. Since, it’s been special. You kind of forget how to lose. We’ve been on an incredible run at Parkway and more success is ahead there. It’s bittersweet to leave,” he said.

“But the way those girls worked, it’s not by accident. (Parkway superstar) Mikaylah Williams is very talented, but she’s up at 5 a.m. to work out,” he said. “You need girls who will work on their own, not wake up and expect to be great.”

The process starts today for Cox and his Lady Vikings.

“I think it’s as good a job as there is in the state,” he said. “There’s everything you need here – great support, a great administration, a program on sound footing. I’m just so blessed.”

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