NORTH EAST — Bill Dockery spent only two months as interim head coach of the Cecil College women’s basketball team but his impact resonated far beyond the North East campus.
The assistant-turned-head coach was named NJCAA Division II Region XX Coach of the Year following a historic season in which he led the nationally-ranked Lady Seahawks to a 23-7 record and secured the first region championship and national tournament berth in program history.
He received the award during the national tournament banquet at North Arkansas Community College in Harrison, Ark. on March 19.
“It really meant appreciating everything that I went through to get there,” said Dockery, who replaced Mike Hollingsworth on Jan. 12, one day before the team’s road game against Potomac State. “Sometimes, when you go through tough times in the valley, you wonder why it’s happening to you. You ask ‘what’s the purpose of this?’ Winning this award really showed me why I had to go through everything that I went through as it relates to the tough times, the struggle of getting this team to where it is.”
The Seahawks won eight of their final nine regular season contests in the wake of Dockery’s promotion, marching to the semifinals of the Maryland JUCO Tournament and later winning back-to-back games to capture the region championship before the home crowd at Cecil College on March 11.
However, it was a month earlier when the intern coach first made his presence known, guiding his team to a come-from-behind victory over eventual national-champion Monroe on Feb. 9 to earn the Seahawks a spot among the nationally ranked.
“Coach Mike Hollingsworth and I, we connected on so many levels. He gave me a lot of authority with this team. Even though he was head coach, he was a selfless man who was all about not only seeing this team develop, but see me develop as a coach. He’s the type of guy that wasn’t going to make it all about him. He was going to make it all about us. When you come from that type of leadership, it makes it easy to transition,” Dockery said. “It would have been a whole lot more difficult if [Hollingsworth] didn’t prepare me for this.”
Cecil, a 12 seed, fell in the opening round of the national tournament to No. 5 Mesa. The Seahawks then saw their season end in overtime to Union County in the opening consolation round.
According to Dockery, the team found success when it overcame internal discord and outside criticism to grow into a close-knit group capable of having late-season success.
“A lot of these girls come from backgrounds that aren’t like Cecil and that’s all I’m going to say,” Dockery said. “There was a lot of challenges that I called ‘advisory chaos.’ Chaos really tried to wreak havoc on this team, outside and inside, and I really had to pray every day.”
Dockery is the second coach in program history to receive the award after Seahawks coach Andrew Coston earned Region XX Coach of the Year in 2013. Dockery also credited assistant coach Mike Jerome for his contributions in directing the program to new heights.
“He was a positive influence in helping make this happen,” Dockery said.
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