HARKER HEIGHTS — Mike Mullins was just ready to take a step back.
Seven months removed from Harker Heights’ first postseason appearance in six years, the Harker Heights head football coach & athletic coordinator submitted his resignation Tuesday, effective the end of the month, to become an assistant at 3A Navasota.
“Well, sometimes it’s good to not be in control,” Mullins said. “The week in Waco really enlightened me a little bit, just from the standpoint of just being a position coach and enjoying coaching football.”
After spending the last week as an assistant coach with the FCA Super Centex Victory Bowl, Mullins received a call Sunday evening from Navasota head coach Lee Fedora, who played for Mullins in the late 1980s at A&M Consolidated when he was an assistant under former Knights coach Ross Rogers.
“Just coaching a position was really refreshing I guess, to be around some great kids ... so when I got back home on Sunday, Lee called me back and (asked) ‘Would you consider (being an assistant)?’” Mullins said. “It was really a whirl-wind kind of decision to be honest with you.”
Fedora, a star receiver on Consolidated’s 1989 state finalist team, was named the Class 3A Lone Star Gridiron Coach of the Year in February after leading Navasota to the Division II-3A championship — its first-ever state title — and a perfect 16-0 mark in 2012.
Mullins, who was in College Station helping his youngest daughter, Alyson, register for classes at Texas A&M, informed several Knights players through a mass text Tuesday, including rising senior running back Marcus Anderson II.
“When I heard it I was kind of shocked, but at the same time sad, because coach Mullins was a great coach,” Anderson II said. “It’s like it came out of left field. Nobody knew, nobody knew he was leaving, and, everybody, we were just dumbfounded almost like, they didn’t know how to react to it.”
He wasn’t alone. Coaches, players and administrators across KISD reacted with a sense of surprise throughout the day Tuesday.
“We just found out this morning, so it’s kind of one of those things where we’re kind of, trying to put it all together right now as we speak,” KISD Deputy Superintendent John Craft said. “And so we’ll honor his request and wish him the very best and go about finding him the best replacement we can for Harker Heights High School.”
The Heights athletic coordinator position was posted on the KISD website Tuesday morning and will close July 8. Mullins’ resignation is effective June 30.
Craft said the job is open to all candidates and he fully expects heavy interest, despite the lateness of the job search. Fall practices begin Aug. 12.
“It’s a little bit late in the game, but I think they’ll be some interest,” Craft said.
With less than two months until the start of fall practices, KISD is limited in both time and candidate pool, with only a handful of current head coaching jobs still open after many were filled throughout the first few months of the year.
“Is it an abnormal time of year to hire (a new head football coach)? Yeah, I guess maybe to some extent, but with spring ball, we’re not necessarily looking at it like we’re starting next week,” Craft said.
KISD faced a similar situation two years ago with the sudden retirement of former Shoemaker head football coach Ken Gray on June 9, 2011. That summer, KISD orchestrated a shotgun-style coaching search, interviewing 19 candidates in one day before ultimately hiring Channon Hall on July 1. This year, July 12 is the last day coaches/teachers can resign without being released by a school board.
Mullins, who expects coach running backs as a co-offensive coordinator at Navasota, made more than $89,000 per year at Heights as of 2011.
“To be honest, I don’t even know about the salary part,” Mullins said. “It’s something that’s never factored into it, it’s a job that I love going to every day and it’s just refreshing that it really didn’t factor into it honestly.”
Mullins was 14-27 in four years at Harker Heights, including leading the Knights (4-7) to their first postseason appearance since 2006 with a 62-15 loss to eventual-state semifinalist DeSoto in November.
Prior to Mullins’ hiring away from 3A Cameron Yoe in 2009, Heights suffered through back-to-back one-win campaigns. But each year under Mullins, the Knights showed improvement, moving from two wins in 2009 to three in 2010 to a 5-5 mark in 2011, barely missing the playoffs that season.
“Every year he came in, we won, and this year we went to the playoffs,” Anderson II said. “Now it’s like he’s leaving and we’re having to pick up the pieces.”
While the decision to step down at Harker Heights happened fairly quickly, it wasn’t one that came easily for Mullins.
“It was hard, and it was kind of an emotional decision,” Mullins said, “but from that standpoint my family feels good about it and we’ll move forward from there.”