Ex-Bulldogs coach Wiggins renews career at Clovis East
The introductions were separated by 6 years and 9 months, the 7 miles between a college and high school, and gender.
“Our new women’s basketball coach: Adrian Wiggins,” Fresno State Athletic Director Thomas Boeh said April 7, 2006.
“Our new boys basketball coach: Adrian Wiggins,” Clovis East Principal Darin Tockey said Tuesday.
It all went against conventional coaching ascension.
The idea is to climb from high school to college. And Wiggins was ecstatic in the Bulldog Foundation Room of the Save Mart Center nearly seven years ago when elevated to permanent Bulldogs coach: “It’s truly an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Today? “You go through phases in life. And this is a second opportunity of a lifetime, I guess.”
It involves one of the most bizarre scenarios experienced by a Fresno-area coach, in any sport.
The Wiggins announcement at Clovis East comes less than three months after he was dismissed at Ole Miss without coaching a game because of recruiting and academic irregularities involving two assistants.
That came after he went 175-65 with four conference titles and five NCAA Tournament appearances at Fresno State.
And that term for the then-Bulldogs assistant was launched following a soap-opera-type firing of Stacy Johnson-Klein.
The career boomerang for Wiggins, who began coaching boys basketball in his hometown of Lawton, Okla., in 1996, also has drastic financial shifts — from $150,000 annually at Fresno State to $400,000 at Ole Miss to $70,000 at Clovis East.
Ole Miss is paying the 39-year-old one year’s salary through March.
While he won’t begin coaching at Clovis East until July 1, he will start teaching immediately for Clovis Unified’s Clovis Online School, a temporary position. He says it hasn’t been determined what he will teach at Clovis East in the fall.
He says he will be paid at a 15-year teaching “step” level, meaning — with his master’s degree — a $68,242 salary, according to the district website. And, eventually, he also will earn a roughly $3,000 annual coaching stipend.
“Money was the driving force, the sole reason, I went to Ole Miss,” Wiggins says, “but it didn’t work and I’m not making that choice again. If a D-I school called me tomorrow, I would have no interest. I have no desire to coach D-I right now. My interests are different; I want to be around my kids more.”
Wiggins and wife Heather have two children — daughter Aubrey, 14 and an eighth-grader; and son William, 11 and a fifth-grader.
They are attending school in Oklahoma, where the mother is teaching first grade.
Adrian Wiggins says they sold their home in Mississippi two days after the firing and that they’ve lived since with family in Oklahoma.
He also says he still owns a 2,800-square-foot home in east Clovis and is renting it out but plans to return there: “We’ll honor the rent contract.”
Heather Wiggins didn’t teach during her husband’s 10 years as a Fresno State assistant and head coach. But he says the “hope” is for her to teach soon in Clovis Unified or a nearby district.
He says the family will not be financially dependent on her employment: “No, I’ll just have to watch my bills more.”
That wasn’t going to be a concern at Ole Miss of the powerful Southeastern Conference.
“Truthfully,” he says, “paying someone $30,000 a month to coach basketball is insane. I was very blessed to have had that opportunity, but not everyone gets to do that, so that’s not a realistic expectation.
“In this setting at Clovis East, I’ll still be making more than twice my dad did while working 25 years in the military. My wife comes from a very well-off situation; her family does really well. I come from very little, and she could care less how much money I make. Money is not the only reason I’m making choices.”
Wiggins says his “primary motivation” now is spending more time with his children and having the opportunity to coach his son, ideally through high school.
“He’s always asked me, ‘Dad, are you ever going to coach boys? Are you ever going to coach me?’ I train him every day; I want to coach him now.
“I could easily be a principal in Oklahoma; my buddies are all superintendents there. But I want to coach; it’s a goal for me. It’s what I like to do. And I think I can still relate to kids.”
Wiggins, wearing a navy blue blazer and powder blue dress shirt with no tie — as opposed to the red and white striped tie he flashed nearly seven years ago at a news conference at the Save Mart Center — found nine Clovis East varsity basketball players in the first two rows of an administration office for his introduction Tuesday.
His plan was to observe them that night in a home nonleague game against Memorial as Mike Gregory continued as the Timberwolves’ interim coach.
Tim Amundsen switched to Central this season after going 181-102 with three Central Section titles in nine years at Clovis East.
“We took a big hit when Coach Amundsen left,” Timberwolves starting junior point guard Dylan Eamigh said. “So getting another coach in here with winning experience is definitely good for the program. This is very positive.”
By Andy Boogaard / The Fresno Bee