As a Patrick Henry girls basketball assistant coach for the last two seasons, Eugene “Blue” Cook had a hand in the Patriots’ recent run of success.
Now he has jumped in with both feet.
Cook, 45, has been named Patrick Henry’s head coach, taking over a program that reached the VHSL Class 5 championship game in February.
Cook replaces Mike Hedrick, whose four-year rebuilding job of the PH program produced a 71-21 overall record and four state tournament appearances.
“Very excited,” Cook said. “I’d rather have it be someone that knows them than someone who doesn’t know them and come in and change things that worked before.
A 1994 graduate of PH where he played football under Ed Scott and basketball for Woody Deans, Cook is invested in the Patriots program for multiple reasons.
His daughter, Jada, will be a sophomore in 2021-22 and is one of four returning starters from last year’s team that finished 9-3 with a 56-41 loss to Princess Anne in the state final.
Cook’s son, Jalen, played football and basketball at PH after transferring from Northside.
Cook coached boys travel teams for six years and spent another five coaching girls travel squads. He was a girls coach at Northside Middle School for two years.
Less than two months before the school year starts, he is charged with maintaining Patrick Henry’s high level of play established by Hedrick, who resigned in early March to become the head coach at East Forsyth High, a first-year program in Gainesville, Georgia.
“[Hedrick] brought Patrick Henry girls basketball from the grave,” Cook said. “The girls … helped accomplish that, but Mike isn’t coming back through those doors. So our mentality is ‘We Over Me’ going forward because that’s what it’s going to take for us to be successful.”
Cook is employed as a mental health counselor. He received a bachelor’s degree in social work from Ferrum College, where he played basketball under head coaches Bill Pullen and Larry Mangino.
PH must replace leading scorer and first-team VHSCA Class 5 forward Savannah Derey, but the Patriots return combo guard Shelby Fiddler, a Niagara commit, along with Jada Cook at point guard, power forward Trinity Breedlove and wing Mini Childress.
Jada Cook recently picked up an offer from Gardner-Webb.
The Patriots, who dressed out just eight varsity players last season, also have picked up Salem transfer Abby Baker.
PH’s schedule this season will include games against William Fleming, Lord Botetourt, Albemarle and Harrisonburg along with a matchup against Woodbridge in Fleming’s 540 FlyCodes Invitational.
The Patriots will take part in a team camp beginning July 17 at Eastern Mennonite University where Cook is anxious to see some of the younger players in the program.
Patrick Henry’s JV team played just two games in the 2020-21 season that was limited by COVID-19.
“We do have some ninth-graders that I think can add to our depth,” Cook said.
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