Tracey Tipton gave her coaching future heavy thought over the past few months before finally reaching a tough decision.
Tipton resigned Monday as Collins Hill's girls basketball coach, ending a tenure that included 2006 and 2007 Class AAAAA state championships and the 2007 national championship in both the USA Today and Sports Illustrated polls. She has been the Eagles' head coach for five seasons, but worked three seasons before that as an assistant to Angie Hembree, winning another state title in 2005.
The demands of head coaching and the time it requires factored into her decision, as did spending more time with her family. She said her outlook on life changed recently after her mother suffered a stroke.
"I'm staying at Collins Hill (as a teacher), hopefully contributing in different ways," Tipton said. "Stepping down was a hard decision. Sometimes in life you have to make a big decision and you can't put it into words why, but you know it's the right thing to do. I've been coaching 21 years and before that I was playing in college, so basketball has consumed my life and I love it.
"But I just need a break. Being able to help out as an assistant in the future is something I'll look at, but being a head coach is demanding. It's hard to do year after year. Taking a year away from (coaching) will be good and I'll be able to spend more time with my family."
Tipton, who was 52-0 as the Eagles' junior varsity coach under Hembree, faced high expectations after she became head coach on the heels of a 2005 state title. But she reached even greater heights the next two seasons, winning back-to-back state titles and the 2007 national crown with the help of current Connecticut All-American Maya Moore.
USA Today named her national coach of the year after the 2007 season.
"Collins Hill has afforded me an opportunity that 99 percent of coaches never get," said Tipton, who coached previously at North Forsyth. "To win a national championship and two state championships, to coach the best player in the country and other great kids, too. It's not just great athletes here, they're great kids, too. I'm grateful for what Collins Hill has allowed me to experience."
The Eagles haven't had as much success since Moore's graduation, but hopes are high for next season as only two seniors graduated off a young 6-16 team. The returning players include a large group of sophomores who filled major roles on this year's team.
As for Tipton, she expects a return to basketball at some point.
"I do want to coach again, in what capacity I'm not sure," she said. "I love the game and I didn't want to leave it but I know I need a break. From head coaching at least."