By R. Alan Richardson
Coach Steve Cisson, Athletic Director at Morgan County High School, is stepping down after the 2016 school year and will be replaced by Coach Doug Connelly. There’s not much that can be said that hasn’t already been written about his legendary career spanning over four decades at his beloved school. “I’ll be the Bulldogs’ biggest fan. It’s hard to turn the spigot off after 41 years of watching and coaching Morgan County sports,” he said.
One of his former players who later became a coach with him, Allen Crowley, may have summed him up best with these words, “When I think about Coach Cisson the first thing that comes to my mind is that he’s the ultimate professional in every sense of the word. He’s a jack of all trades. I’ve never known him to fail at anything including coaching, administration, and teaching. He’s also been successful in every phase of his life as a father, husband, family man, and friend. To sum him up I would say respect, respect, respect.”
To correct an error in a previous article, The Coach is tied with Bill Corry for most state championships in school history with four. He has a basketball and three fast pitch softball trophies under his belt and will go down as one of the finest coaches and people to wear the red and black.
Current (and also retiring) Principal Jim Malanowski also had high praise for his AD saying, “To call him a legend would be an understatement! For someone to win a state championship is a real accomplishment, and for someone to do it twice says a great deal, but for a coach to win a state championship in TWO sports is incredible! I’ve looked to Coach Cisson for his wisdom and common sense over the last four years. He always came through. Recognition by his peers in the region as Athletic Director of the Year says a great deal about the respect they have for him.”
Thanks to Alvin Richardson for the following career highlights when Cisson was selected to the Stephens County Hall of fame.
1969 – Graduated from Stephens County High School
1975 – Graduated from the University of Georgia
1975 – Hired as teacher and coach at Morgan County High School
1975 to Present – Cisson has spent his entire career at Morgan County High School. During that time he has taught physical science, physical education, math, driver’s education, and has run both the DCT and ISS programs. During that time Cisson has coached football, basketball, baseball, fast pitch softball and golf. He has been athletic director at the school for the past 10 years.
Football – As the defensive coordinator for the MCHS football team for 20 years Cisson’s units yielded an average of 10. 3 points per game and the team won over 60 percent of their games.
Girls Basketball – Coached the squad for 17 years compiling a record of 308-125 (71 percent) and during that time his teams made 10 appearances in the state playoffs, won 20 games or more eight times, and won the state championship in 1983.
Fast pitch Softball – Was the first coach of the program which began in 1998. From 1998 to 2005 his teams recorded 183 wins and 78 losses (70%) and won four region titles, a state runner up (2004), and three state titles (2002, 2003, and 2005).
“His athletic teams always bore three distinctive trademarks that championship squad’s display. They were fundamentally sound, mentally tough, and physically hard-nosed. If you invented a new sport, Coach Cisson could coach the team and they would be a winner because he has a knack of applying basic coaching principles and getting the most out of his players.” (From the Morgan County Citizen newspaper, May of 2005 Wayne Bradshaw-Head Football Coach at MCHS 1974-1987).
It’s very rare that a person can hold up in any job for that amount of time, much less in education. When asked how he’s managed to stand the test of time (all at the same school) he said, “I think it’s because I did a lot of different things and coached a lot of different things. There were a few chances to leave Morgan County over the years. I was offered some college basketball coaching jobs and almost left when Bradshaw left as the head football coach. We felt like there was nothing anywhere else that wasn’t in Morgan County. I was doing what I wanted to do and teaching and coaching what I wanted to. Not only that, I married into a nice big family that I enjoyed being around so we just decided to stay here.”
All-State softball pitching star and later a coach on Cisson’s staff, Shelly Powell Hilsman said, “He was a great coach to play for, but he was more than just a coach to me for four years. He was also a mentor for me through those years of my life. He was hardworking, tough when he needed to be, and such an inspiration!! I wish him the best at retirement and may he catch all the fish he can!!
There’s probably no closer partner in crime to Steve than his friend Alvin Richardson. “As I said, when Coach Bradshaw left I was ready to get out of football. Alvin came on as the head football coach and we had the same philosophy about football, fishing, and golf. We hit it off immediately,” said Cisson. Richardson commented on his close friend, “Steve Cisson is a rare breed of coach. He had the ability to make his players fundamentally sound, to compete with maximum effort at all times and at the same time apply the principles of tough love. As a result the athletes who played under him were some of the most competitive and hard-nosed ones I’ve ever seen. Never once, whether it was on the football field, the basketball court or the softball field, did I ever see one of his kids quit. He exuded a confidence that found its way into the hearts of his players and more often than not they would take that confidence and find a way to win. One more thing that separates the good ones from the great ones is loyalty. If you were one of his players you always knew he had your back and he was that same way through nearly four decades of high school
be replaced. Steve Cisson was one of the greats.”
What toll does it take on a family when a guy is on the job for 10-12 hours a day, gone on the weekends, and misses Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities at times for 40 years? His wife, Vicki Cisson, alluded to that, “As a family it was hard at times, but he always made time for us.” She then said, “I’m very proud of the success he has made in helping our young people of Morgan County be the best they can be. He wanted them to be good athletes and be good people as well. Someone once called me the First Lady of Basketball, but I’m glad to be passing that crown on to Coach Reeves’s wife, Randi after 33 years. It’s been a good journey, but I’m ready for us to spend more time together and do some traveling.”
His daughter, Erin Cisson, talked about what it was like growing up as a coach’s child, “I’m so proud to call Coach Cisson my Dad. It’s nice to tell someone that he’s my Dad and I hear their favorite story of him either coaching or teaching them (mostly driver’s education) then they always end it with he’s a great man. I can say that my Dad is the most Christian, loving, humble man I have ever met! Dad has always done the right thing and has always tried to be fair to everyone involved. It will be very different for our family. For once in my life, my Dad will not be coaching or teaching this fall. It’s great to think sometimes about how many lives he has touched in his 41 years at Morgan County High, and I’m lucky that he has touched mine the most. I have great memories of being able to be on the bench during basketball games as Dad coached, and being in the stands when he coached three softball teams to state championships. My favorite memory that I have of my Dad is him walking me down the aisle on my wedding day. I know Dad will enjoy fishing and playing golf more, but don’t let him fool you. He will miss being at the high school and on the side lines of every sport. I’m sure he will still be around at games because it’s in his blood and always will be.”
Cisson was quick to add, “I appreciate all the administrators, boards of education, superintendents, teachers, players, and the families of Morgan County for sticking with me. I would especially like to thank the current and former coaches at MCHS that have made my job enjoyable over the last ten years.”
He also wanted to compliment his wife and daughter, “My wife Vicki and daughter Erin have been with me all the way. It’s tough being a coach’s wife, but she is a special woman. It’s nice to know when you are coming down that driveway you have somebody on your side.”
The Coach talked about his plans after retirement, “I’m still going to serve as the 8-AAA Region Secretary, but I don’t think I’ll do much else for the first six months just to see what it really feels like to be retired. We’ll just see. I certainly don’t want to get bored.” It is sure attending Morgan County events, the golf course, fishing holes, and hunting excursions will be a part of those plans as well.
Thanks Coach for what you’ve meant to all the Bulldog faithful!