MURRAY — Murray High’s new head volleyball coach is carrying an extensive background into the position.

Al Bassett, who is concluding a 28-year career in the Army with the rank of major, was named head coach last week. He is replacing Jennifer Westbrook, who resigned at the end of last season, her third as head coach. The Lady Tigers ended with a 9-12 record, having played eventual 4th District champion Marshall County to a respectable 25-16, 25-10, 25-20 score. 

This will be his first high school head coaching stint, however, it would seem he is more than ready for the job. He knows the game, having played it at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in the highly-competitive Chicago high school ranks. He also played on beach circuits during his time as a student in the late-1980s and early 1990s, which is when American men’s volleyball began making huge strides worldwide.

“I actually started in junior high,” Bassett said Wednesday of how boys play in Illinois, which is not the case in Kentucky.

“So I played five years of school volleyball, one year of club and I did play on some (Army) post teams (at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Fort Stewart, Georgia) and we did some beach too when we could and our games were pretty impressive. I just love the game.”

Bassett said he has had one formal meeting with what will be his first team at Murray High, along with two open-gym sessions. Activity will cease next week when the mandatory dead period arrives, putting a halt to all organized workouts statewide.

He said those sessions have gone well.

“I think these girls have really been eager to prove themselves,” he said, adding that he is receiving help from an assistant he knows well, his wife, Renee.

“She’s got 10 years of experience with this game, so I think we’ve got a really good thing going. But these kids seem to be working really hard and I’m really excited about what we have going on here.

“So, hopefully, we’re bringing things to the table, but, ultimately, it’s about them. It’s not about me.”

Bassett said he has researched the Murray Independent School District and said he likes the environment into which he and Renee are entering. 

“It’s a system with a really good reputation for education and that is foremost,” he said. “You’ve got to be good students  and good people. You do those things, then we try to work you in and make you great at your second job. Your first job is the most important, though, because you can’t do that second job unless you take care of that first job.”  

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