Coats, Lyons-Jones to be honored
By By Marty Stamper / EMG sports assistant
April 11, 2002
A pair of former area athletic standouts will be honored by the University of Southern Mississippi's M Club Alumni Association when they are inducted into the group's Hall of Fame Friday night.
Former Stonewall standout Willie "Tenny" Coats and former Neshoba Central standout Diana Lyons will be among six inductees. Ceremonies will be held at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg.
Also to be inducted are football standouts Marvin Harvey and L.T. Herman, track standout Chuck Rohe, baseball standout Steve Knight, and former USM football coach Bobby Collins.
Coats played football, basketball, and baseball at Stonewall High School. The Stonewall team went undefeated in 1952 and 1953 and had a 27-game winning streak before suffering its lone loss of the 1954 season.
He played quarterback and defensive back and was chosen to play in the Mississippi High School All-Star Football Game.
Coats played football four years and baseball three years at USM. He again played both quarterback and defensive back. The 1958 USM team went undefeated and was the Small College National Champion.
He played minor league professional baseball with the Chicago Cubs organization before entering the coaching profession for a 39-year span. Coats' high school stops included Decatur, Quitman, and Hattiesburg. He was an assistant at East Central Junior College and became head coach at Pearl River Community College before concluding his career as head coach at East Central Community College. The Warriors won 19 of their last 23 games under Coats with the 1996 team going 10-1 and winning the Huddle House Golden Isles Bowl in Brunswick, Ga., to finish No. 5 in the final NJCAA poll.
Lyons-Jones' sport was basketball and what a force she was. After playing at Neshoba Central, Lyons-Jones played her first two years at East Central Junior College where she averaged 19.1 points for 54 games. She was a first-team all-state selection both years and was MVP of the South Division. EC won a state championship her freshman year and was state runner-up to Gulf Coast her sophomore season.
Though she only played two years at USM, Lyons-Jones made an impact on the Lady Eagles' basketball program as her name still remains in the top 10 in several statistical categories.
Her 215 field goals made in the 1978-79 were good for ninth place heading into this past season. Her 328 rebounds that same year are the third single-season highest number, while her 316 boards in the 1977-78 campaign rank fifth.
Lyons-Jones' 19.0 scoring average in the 1977-78 season is good for ninth place on USM's all-time list.
Her 644 career rebounds ranked eighth on USM's all-time list entering this past season, while her 12.9 average for the two years remains the best in Lady Eagles' history.
Her 18.9 career scoring average is the third highest at USM. She led the Lady Eagles in scoring as a senior with an 18.9 average and was the team's best in rebounding both as a junior (13.2) and senior (12.6).
She scored a career-high 36 points in an 86-85 win over Jackson State on Feb. 2, 1978, and tossed in 30 against both Belhaven College and Mississippi College.
Lyons-Jones had a career-high 24 rebounds on two occasions, against Ole Miss as a junior and Alabama-Birmingham as a senior. Only Wilhelmina Smith has ever had more as a Lady Eagle as she pulled down 26 against Cincinnati in 1984. Lyons-Jones also had 22 boards against Chattanooga as a senior.
She was an MAIAW all-state pick both years and was selected to the AIAW all-Region III team as a junior.
Lyons-Jones is currently the girls' basketball coach at Hattiesburg High School.
Both Coats (2001) and Lyons-Jones (1991) were previously inducted into the East Central Community College Athletic Hall of Fame.