• September 21, 2014

Mullins’ surprising departure is not so shocking

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Posted: Sunday, June 23, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 4:31 am, Sun Jun 23, 2013.

Marcus Anderson II was dumbfounded.

The text message he received Tuesday was simple enough. But he felt like it had come out of left field and the Harker Heights running back was shocked, dismayed and didn’t know what to do or expect next. Seven months removed from Harker Heights’ first postseason appearance in six years, his Knights were going to have a new head coach next season.

Mike Mullins had submitted his resignation. He was leaving Harker Heights to coach running backs and be a co-offensive coordinator at 3A Navasota.

The move at first glance was head-scratching.

Mullins made more than $89,000 per year as head coach of the Knights as of 2011. Navasota probably won’t pay him within $30,000 of that.

It takes a lot to make a man take a pay cut larger than what a lot of people make in an entire year.

Yet, when the job offer came, Mullins only spent a day deciding this was the right thing to do for himself and his family.

Why?

He simply couldn’t stand it at Harker Heights anymore.

Admittedly, Mullins did not just take any assistant job. Lee Fedora led Navasota to the Division II-3A championship — its first-ever state title — and a perfect 16-0 mark last year. Fedora was also a finalist for the Temple job in 2011, before the Wildcats hired Mike Spradlin.

Suffice to say, a bigger gig awaits Fedora soon and that leaves Mullins as a frontrunner to lead an established 3A program again, something he has already done and done well.

Before coming to Heights, Mullins had an 81-59-1 record with 10 playoff appearances as head coach at Cameron Yoe, Gilmer and Angleton.

He was 14-27 in four years at Harker Heights and made the playoffs once — a 62-15 loss to eventual-state semifinalist DeSoto in November.

Each year under Mullins, the Knights showed improvement, moving from two wins in 2009 to three in 2010 to 5-5 in 2011 to a playoff appearance in his final season.

Still, there was a feeling that the Knights would never take that next step; that the program would never have more success than 5-5 or 4-7.

And deep down Mullins knew it.

He can say it was to be closer to his family since his daughter is going to college at Texas A&M in the fall or that it was a good opportunity, but really the truth is that in his three years at Harker Heights, things just never clicked.

The support he wanted and needed to build the program was not there. The inane job duties the administration kept handing down to him and his coaches made little to no sense, which is why some KISD coaches just go about their business with their heads down, hoping not to draw the ire of KISD administration.

And it is not like the facilities are out of this world at KISD, either. While Belton, Temple and Copperas Cove keep ramping up the arms race to build a better athletics program, KISD is stuck in status quo, unable to even get locker rooms at the stadium they lease at Fort Hood. While Belton is building a $5 million field house, KISD has been forced to put Band-Aids on its festering wounds.

Now, it has yet another bandage to apply.

The Harker Heights athletic coordinator position was posted on the KISD website Tuesday morning and will close July 8. 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. And it is not like KISD is a destination job anymore — if it ever was.

Coaches with a lot of success don’t usually apply. Channon Hall and Trent Gregory have so far invigorated the downtrodden programs they’ve taken over — both teams had lost at least 20 straight games when the coaches got the job. But Gregory had a losing record when he took over and Hall was an assistant coach.

But Mullins knew all of that. He knew how his leaving would affect the team and the school district and Harker Heights.

Still, he chose to leave.

The move was surprising, shocking and left you wondering what KISD and Mullins himself was going to do next.

But the reasons he left?

They aren’t too dumfounding after all.

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