By Mark Nagi
The Knoxville Catholic Boys’ Basketball program won’t be the same come March.
Whenever their season ends, that will also mark the completion of the long and successful coaching career of Mike Hutchens.
“40 years is a lot of anything,” Hutchens said. “I just thought it was time. The program is in good shape. We are gonna be good again next year. I have a lot of family that lives in another state in Mississippi that I have only seen one time the last two years because of Covid and other things. It’s just time.”
Hutchens has spent the last 32 years coaching at KCHS.
“I love working with kids,” he said. “That is what makes it fun. There’s a lot of other stuff that goes along with it that is not as fun, but that’s part of the job. Getting to work with the boys, watching them grow and making something of themselves is what it is all about.”
Knoxville Catholic already has Hutchens replacement secured. Luke Smith, who played for Hutchens and went on to star at Sewanee and Belmont, will take the reins next Fall.
“I feel really good about it and with my former point guard coming in to take over, that makes it even better, so it is kind of a win win situation for me,” said Hutchens.”
The Fighting Irish have advanced to the state tournament six times under Hutchens. and won their first state title back in 2020. The pandemic shut down the season only a few days later.
As for what will be Hutchens’ final group, he sounds like it could be another run to Murfreesboro.
“This team has the potential to go all the way if we can stay healthy and continue to play like we play and work the way we are working,” said Hutchens. “We will have a chance. There are really good teams in this Division, but we plan on trying to be there.”
To prepare for the postseason battles that are surely ahead, Hutchens sets up what he calls one of the most difficult schedules this side of Memphis. That includes a trip to Norcross, Georgia in the middle of January to play in the Peach Ball Classic.
“To compete and make it to state in the level we are at in Division II-AA, you have to play that kind of schedule to have the chance to be successful,” Hutchens said. “You have to find out what you can do and what your team is made of and those games will do that for us.”
The Fighting Irish return four out of five starters from last years team, which advanced to the state semifinals. Their most well-known player is senior point guard B.J. Edwards, who has signed to play at Tennessee in 2022-2023.
Junior guard Blue Cain is a big part of this squad in the backcourt. Three-point specialist Presley Patterson is a problem for opposing defenses. Defensive stopper Yesan Warren also plays a key role for the Fighting Irish.
The season is just getting started. Hutchens already has over 600 career victories and will add to that total in the months to come.