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Cossey finds new hoops home at Concord

Cary Cossey (second from left), pictured with wife Teri, daughter Ashlyn and son Grant, will guide the Concord girls basketball program this season.

Richard Sharp

By Richard Sharp Special to The Guard

CONCORD -- After having Keith Cornett at the helm for two seasons, the Concord Lady Pirate basketball program have found their new head coach in Bradford alum Cary Cossey.

An ASU Beebe and UCA graduate, Cossey prepares to enter his 21st season of coaching, getting his start in southern Arkansas at Delta High School in 1999, remaining there for three years before making the move to Humphrey for one year, eventually landing back at his alma mater of Bradford, where he directed the boys program for four seasons. Cossey's longest stint of his career came at Buffalo Island Central, serving as an assistant coach for nine years, winding up at Manila for three years as an assistant to the varsity girls and coach to the seventh grade and junior high girls.

"I call this place home," stated Cossey. "Concord, Bradford, Batesville, Searcy, Conway, this is where I wanted to be. So when this job opened up I thought, man, I can't pass that up if I get to coach the girls and get to work with Coach Cornett. I love small schools and the passion for the game that lies there and thought this would be a perfect place to end up at. The school system here is second to none and they love their basketball, having a rich tradition in it."

The Lady Pirates return three starters from a 2019 team that went 25-10 overall, clinching their first ever berth in the semifinals of the Class 1A State Tournament at Izard County, defeating Kirby 64-52 in the Sweet Sixteen and Jasper 54-50 in the Elite Eight before falling to conference mate and eventual state champion Wonderview 48-37 in the Final Four. Cossey will look to his senior quartet of Ashlyn Deckard, Avery Southerland, Annalise Cornett and Jaylyn Jefferson to help lead against what many agree to be the toughest conference in all of Class 1A: The 1A-5.

"We had a pretty good summer, started practicing in about the second week of June and went to a couple of team camps including one at White County Central and one at South Side Bee Branch. We are not going to shy down from expectations because we know they are there. We expect to be right there in the mix. We are going to have to earn it because we know everyone is going to give it their best shot in a league this competitive. I feel good about this team."

Cornett, a 1991 Concord graduate who has guided the boys golf program to state championships in golf in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016 as well as the school's first boys basketball title in 2014, hands the reins over to Cossey after amassing a 52-18 record that included a district championship and two treks to the state tournament. Assisting Cornett has been Concord principal Scott Whillock, a long-time friend of Cossey and Cornett's who directed Pangburn's boys program to their first state finals appearance in 2003.

"At a small school like Concord, it's almost unheard of to have two guys like Coach Cornett and Mr. Whillock there. It's priceless to me because you can lean on them and talk about different things and you can't put a price tag on that. Coach Cornett was an excellent player in high school and college and would go on to become an excellent coach as well, he is like a living legend around here. He's just unbelievable. I'm so thankful to be able to work with these guys."

Cossey, whose wife Teri will be teaching third-and fourth-grade literacy at Concord, took time to also describe his coaching philosophy. Cossey hails from an athletic family that is spearheaded by his father, who coached for over 30 years.

"I try to get the ball out and push, and I believe they have bought into that style of play but when we push that doesn't mean we have to look for a shot right away. Let's push it and see what we've got. If we've got a good shot, let's pull the trigger. Maybe we can beat some teams down the floor and get some easy baskets out of transition. I base a lot of what we do on the personnel of what we are going up against every night."

The Lady Pirates will begin their 2019-20 campaign at home against White County Central on Oct. 22.