In 15 years, Mancino Craighead has been a part of some of the highest moments of Carlisle athletics.
He spent four years coaching the school’s now-defunct football program, including two years as head coach. He was there when the team played its last game, a 30-29, come-from-behind victory over Hargrave Military Academy that was won on a goal-line stand from the 1-yard line.
“I’ll never forget it. They had 62 players, and we had 17,” Craighead said by phone Monday. “We were down 29-9 at the half. And I remember it was a lot of people who left the game thinking the game was over with. … And we won that game. I’ll never forget that. The seniors boys got together, and they got the game ball from that game, and they all signed it, and I keep it in my office as something I can look back on.”
He called winning his first state title as girls basketball coach the pinnacle of his coaching career at the school. He won more than 130 games in nine seasons at the helm of the girls basketball program, winning 20 games four times. The Chiefs never lost more than seven games in any of the last five seasons, a span in which they won four straight VISAA Division III state titles.
In his time at Carlisle, Craighead has been a part of six state championships – two as an assistant boys basketball coach under Jeff Adkins, and four as head coach of the girls basketball team.
“I was thinking about that yesterday. It was like, ‘Man, that’s almost like every three years.’ It might be better than that,” he said. “I will remember every single last one of them.
“I’ve had so many great memories here at Carlisle.”
Carlisle told the school on Friday he would be resigning from both his position as girls basketball coach and athletic director. He said he plans to get out of education and coaching for a bit to take a job in sales and spend more time with his family and young daughter, Neveah, who is in eighth grade at Carlisle this year. Craighead did not specify where he would be working.
Citing a need for a “break” from teaching and coaching, he said he’s looking forward to getting to be a parent and to travel to watch Neveah’s games and support her.
“I’m just kind of going to enjoy my life, enjoy my daughter’s life,” he said. “I want to see her finish up here at Carlisle if at all possible. She’s playing volleyball, so I’ll get to travel around and be a parent. Not be the Coach Craighead or anything like that, or worry about having to work and all of that. I can really, truly support my daughter as she’s getting older. That’s something that I look forward to.”
His getting out of coaching completely may not happen, though, because Craighead said he has had a bit of an itch to get back on the gridiron, and is considering possibly volunteering on a football coaching staff, though no hard plans are in the works and he didn’t say where that might be, and is all dependent on the schedule for his new job.
Craighead said he plans to work out his 30-day notice at the school and has spoken with Carlisle Head of School Gracie Agnew about helping to find his replacement for both positions. Agnew did not respond immediately to telephone messages.
“I may not be the one that makes the decision, but I will make some suggestions, and it will be totally up to Carlisle School on what they do,” he said. “But I told them I would love for someone that will come in and try to continue the things athletically that I’ve tried to do. … I’m hoping it’ll be someone that really wants to put the time into seeing the program thrive, because that’s what I’ve tried to do since I’ve taken over.”
As of Monday, Craighead said he had spoken to all of his current players directly except for one, and although he knows many of them came to Carlisle to be part of his program, he has made sure they know he is leaving on good terms and that they should remain at the school. His hope, he said, is that the next coach will be someone who is on the program’s staff to allow for continuity.
“I know most of the girls that are coming in, they want to be here because, first, academically, and then secondly because of me,” he said. “And I’ve already reached out to all those families and encouraged them to continue to still come to Carlisle. … I still truly support Carlisle. It’s just time for me to move on. But I really would love to see this girls basketball program continue to thrive. We’ve got some good young talent and I’m excited what the next person can do to continue that legacy.”
Craighead called his decision to leave one of the most difficult of his life. Going to the school every day was never a job for him, he said, it was more like going to see his family.
Craighead said speaking with his former players helped ease his mind over the decision.
“I’ve reached out to all my players, all my former players, and all that good stuff and told them, and they were all like, ‘Coach, good luck in whatever you do. Just make sure you send us some money for college,’” he said with a laugh. “So we’re laughing and joking with it, so that made me feel good that all my former players were O.K. with it and they were just thanking me for everything.
“We (he and his wife) drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and sat up there for a while and enjoyed the scenery and the view, and I wrote my letter of resignation. And it took me a while to send it, but I sent it, and I’m at peace with it. I feel like I’ve given Carlisle 15 great years of my life, of my family’s life, and at this point I just think it’s time for me to move on.”
Craighead said he wants to thank everyone involved with the school and his coaching career for their support and generosity throughout the years.
“I’ll still be in the area, still be around. I just won’t be Coach Craighead anymore,” he said. “I just appreciate everyone that I’ve come in contact with since I’ve been here at Carlisle and I’ll always be a Chief at heart.”
Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.