McKinley fires T.J. Pugh as boys basketball coach

Just one year after leading his team to the Class 5A title game and earning 5A and All-Metro Coach of the Year honors, T.J. Pugh is out as boys basketball coach at McKinley High.

McKinley Principal Armond Brown said it was his decision to “go in a different direction.” The move caught Pugh, a former Broadmoor High and LSU standout, by surprise.

“I called him (Pugh) in and told him we’d be going another way,” Brown said. “Other than that, I really can’t elaborate.”

The Panthers lost to Baton Rouge rival Scotlandville in the 2012 Class 5A title game in a postseason that included several upset wins. Pugh was selected as The Advocate’s All-Metro Coach of the Year and the Class 5A Coach of the Year by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

But 2012-13 was not as charmed filled. The Panthers returned four seniors, only two of whom played significant minutes a year ago. McKinley finished 10-18, including a 2-8 mark in District 5-5A. MHS did not make the 5A playoffs.

“The whole thing caught me by surprise,” Pugh said. “It was a different year certainly, but I thought the kids played hard and we had a group of young players coming up.

“I felt like I tried to do the right things, like stressing academics and working to get more players into college. I was already making plans for next year.”

The 43-year-old Pugh, who spent three seasons as McKinley’s coach, said he is not sure what his next move will be. He left an administrative job at Woodlawn Middle School three years to take the McKinley job.

Meanwhile, Brown said he expects McKinley’s coaching search to last about two weeks. Those interested in applying for the McKinley job should contact Brown at the school at (225) 344-7696.