JUCO NEWS: Itawamba CC’s Pate announces retirement; Wilson named as next Head Coach

Itawamba Community College’s men’s basketball coach Grant Pate plans to step down at the end of the 2023-24 season, the program announced Wednesday. Assistant coach Darrian Wilson will take over for the 2024-25 season.

Pate is in the middle of his 12th season leading the Indians basketball program.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Pate. “ICC is family and has been a great place to work and watch my family grow over the past 12 years. I feel the time is right for me to hand over the reins to the next head coach for them to be able to build on our successes and take the program to the next level.”

The Indians are off to a 14-2 start this season and are 136-128 since Pate took over the program in 2013. He led the Indians to the 2014 division and conference championships while being named the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) Coach of the Year. Since conference realignment during the 2020-21 season, the Indians have qualified for postseason play three straight years and advanced to the regional quarterfinals last season. Pate was selected to coach the North squad during the 2018 MACJC All-Star game.

“We appreciate Coach Pate and everything he has done for the basketball program and the college,” said ICC Athletic Director Chad Case. “He truly cares about his players and their success away from the basketball. That shows in how many players have earned a degree and had opportunities to continue their education through basketball after their time here at ICC.”

Under Pate’s direction, 96 percent of his players have graduated, and 41 players have signed with four-year programs, nearly half of those moving on to the NCAA Division I level.

“Success in the classroom is something that has always been very important to me,” Pate said. “Having a great education like you get here at ICC is something that nobody will be able to take away from them. Taking care of business in the classroom opens the door to so many opportunities in life whether it be continuing your education through basketball on the next level or preparing yourself from life away from the game.”

Pate’s coaching career began as a graduate assistant at the University of Arkansas at Monticello (92-94) and Ouachita Baptist University (95-96). In 1996, he joined Coach Rod Barnes’ staff as an administrative assistant at the University of Mississippi and worked his way up to Coordinator of Basketball Operations and assistant coach before leaving the program in 2006. During his time in Oxford, the Rebels advanced to the 2000 NIT Elite Eight, won the SEC Western Division Championship (2001), finished runner-up in the SEC Tournament (2001), qualified for the NCAA Tournament twice (2001, 02) and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 (2001). Pate was announced as the new boys’ basketball coach at Tupelo High School in 2008 and helped guide the Golden Wave to a Class 6A runner-up finish (2012) and a record of 94-29 over the next four seasons. His career record is 232-157 as a head coach.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be the next men’s basketball coach at ICC,” said Wilson. “Being a college basketball coach is something I have dreamed of since I started coaching, and I can’t think of a better place to get my first head coaching job than Itawamba Community College.”

Wilson, who is entering his second season as an assistant coach of the Indians basketball program, was the head coach for AAU’s Mississippi Express Basketball Organization (MEBO). It is a non-profit youth program based in Meridian and sponsored by NIKE ELITE YOUTH BASKETBALL (EYB), NBA veteran Rodney Hood, the Hood family and the Boys & Girls Club of East Mississippi. 

“I’m extremely proud for Coach Wilson and excited about the future of the program under his direction,” said ICC’s current men’s basketball Coach Grant Pate. “He’ll be able to make a quick transition to keep things moving in a positive direction and take the program to the next level.”

Wilson was a member of the Jackson State University men’s basketball team (2018-22), where he was selected captain during his junior, senior and graduate seasons. In 2021, the Tigers went undefeated in conference play and won the SWAC regular season championship.

Prior to his time at Jackson State, Wilson was an NJCAA Academic All-American and a 2018 Athletic Hall of Fame inductee at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. He graduated with honors from Brookhaven High School, where he was a multi-sport athlete. In basketball, he earned 5A All-State (2015), All-Region (2015, 16), All-District and All-Star (2014, 15, 16) honors. In football, he was named a Wendy’s High School Heisman State finalist and earned All-Region honors (2014, 15). In baseball, he earned All-Region honors (2015). Wilson was also a member of the National Honor Society.

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