Sports

Dunbar girls' coach Sowers leaving for Shelby Co.

Mike Sowers tossed and turned for a week trying to make his difficult decision.

The Paul Laurence Dunbar girls' basketball coach's head was telling him to stay at the school where he's coached for the past five seasons.

But his heart was telling him something else.

Then one morning last week, he opened his eyes from a fitful night of sleep and knew that he was ready to leave Dunbar and become the new girls' basketball coach at Shelby County next season.

"I woke up and felt like something in my heart was telling me to go in that direction," Sowers said. "It's been a very emotional ride for the past week."

Sowers officially will be named the Rockets' third coach in three seasons on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

He will replace Phillip Conder, who has accepted the head coaching job at new county rival Collins High School, which opens next school year.

Conder replaced longtime coach Sally Zimmerman, who is now the athletic director at Shelby County. Former Dunbar administrator and boys' basketball coach Eddie Oakley is the principal at Shelby County.

Sowers said he was excited about working with "two people who are so supportive of and passionate about athletics," he said.

He said even though the decision was a difficult one, he was excited about a new challenge.

"I felt like it would be a good change at this point in my life," said Sowers, who has a career 191-89 record, including 111-31 in five seasons at Dunbar, where he has had 10 of his 14 graduating players sign college scholarships.

That number includes star Ebony Rowe, who will play at Middle Tennessee State next season. Rowe was part of the 2007-08 team that was ranked in the nation's top 10.

That same year Sowers was named Kentucky Coach of the Year in a vote by the state's coaches. The Bulldogs were ranked in the state's top 10 at some point in each of the five seasons he was head coach.

Sowers told his players late last week. That was the most difficult part of the decision for the coach and his wife, April, who also was an assistant coach.

"The hardest part was telling the girls because April and I think of them as our children," Sowers said. "The parents and players at Dunbar have treated us with love and respect the past five years."

But the coach said he was comforted knowing that the program is in good shape for next season.

"Knowing the program still has plenty of talent and should continue to be strong and competitive in this region also helped my decision," Sowers said.

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