By Robert Wilson
Tim Wise is going home.
The Jackson Prep boys basketball coach and former Millsaps College men’s basketball coach and athletic director has spent the last 25 years of his life in the Metro Jackson area, but announced this week he is going back home to Memphis.
The 56-year-old Wise has been named the boys basketball coach at Evangelical Christian School in Memphis and will start there June 1.
Wise led Prep to back-to-back MAIS Overall Tournament championships for the past two seasons and had 30-6 records both seasons, his best records in his six seasons at Prep. Wise’s Overall title team in 2022 was the first Overall title at Prep since 2012 and his two consecutive Overall crowns were the first at Prep since a three-peat from 1996-98. Prep’s Class 6A state title two years ago was the first boys state title since back-to-back titles in 2012-2013 and the third since 1998. Wise was named the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Coach of the Year in 2022.
“The decision to leave Prep and relocate to Memphis centers around family – three of our four parents are still with us, and all live in Memphis,” Wise said. “This is a position, in which, we were not exploring or seeking, but once contacted, being from Memphis, we immediately began to discern and seek clarity from God with this decision. It was a very, very difficult decision. However, with the leadership that is in place at ECS, the mission to provide a Christ-centered, biblically, directed education is a fit for Rachel (Wise’s wife) and me. We take with us a myriad of memories and stories.”
Before coming to Prep, Wise was the men’s basketball coach at Millsaps for 14 seasons and was the athletic director for eight seasons. He led Millsaps to an NCAA Division III Tournament Elite Eight appearance, a school record 28 victories and a No. 6 final ranking, the highest in school history, during the 2007-2008 season. Wise, a member of the Millsaps Sports Hall of Fame, is the career leader in assists at Millsaps. After playing at Millsaps, Wise was head coach at St. Benedict at Auburndale in Cordova, Tenn., for two years, freshman coach at Cordova High for one year and assistant coach at his alma mater, Memphis University School, for 10 years before coming to Millsaps.
An example of Wise’s incredible skills as a coach came in his last game at Prep in the Overall championship game against Clinton Christian Academy. CCA was coming off a 74-67 win over Madison-Ridgeland Academy and the talented duo of KJ Sykes and Trey Alexander combined for 66 points. Prep defeated CCA 58-46, and Wise held Sykes and Alexander to a combined 23 points and avenged a 19-point loss to CCA in the last meeting.
“Tim is a great coach and I felt if he had an opportunity to go back to Memphis, he would probably take it,” said MRA coach Richard Duease, the second winningest active boys basketball coach in the country and Mississippi’s all-time leader in basketball wins. “Tim did a great job at Prep. His teams were disciplined. His teams slowed the game down enough to keep them in the game and his teams played good defense.”
Another one of Wise’s great coaching accomplishments at Prep was against Duease and MRA. Prep upset MRA 38-34 to end MRA’s 44-game winning streak against MAIS teams two years ago and also defeated MRA for the 6A state title that season. Wise pulled off another huge win in the Overall Tournament two years ago when his Patriots defeated Greenville Christian 41-23 to end a 19-game winning streak. Wise’s defense held Greenville Christian star player DJ Smith, who was averaging 32.5 points in the playoffs, to only 11 points.
Wise was a master at controlling the tempo to give his team, sometimes not as talented or as athletic as the other team, an opportunity to win. His teams played tough defenses and his offenses made multiple passes on almost every possession in order to get a good shot.
“Coach Wise was incredible,” said Prep senior Luke Segrest, a three-year starter who Wise called the heart and soul of his team. “He emphasized the fundamentals and that’s one of the reasons we were able to win games. Just simply passing and catching and taking good shots. If a look wasn’t there we just got back into another action. Not taking bad shots really helped us control games and frustrate defenses. But it really all starts on the defensive end for him, making stops and then getting good shots was the key.”
“These last 25 years at Jackson Prep and Millsaps College, although not without the ups and downs of yearly records, have been truly a blessing to be at your college alma mater, Millsaps, and at the place, Jackson Prep, in which all three of our own children (Luke, Anna and Alison) were mentored and have lifelong friendships,” Wise said. “Much more so than games won or lost, I will cherish the relationships formed, not only with the players, but also with the outstanding assistant coaches, that have worked, and the life experiences that are still growing to this day. I acknowledge my wife, Rachel, for her unwavering support in what we have given to our life’s calling, the care and molding of the young. She is the rock for our family, and has stepped in so many times, as the nature of this job has had me away with long hours and weekends during the basketball seasons from October-March.”
“While I’m happy for Coach Wise and this opportunity, I’m sad for Jackson Prep,” Prep athletic director Will Crosby said. “Programmatically, his attention to detail and his preparation is as good as it gets. But we are losing more than a basketball coach. Tim is a good man who genuinely cares for his players. He is an employee who participates in all areas of school life. Coach Wise will always be a part of the Prep family and we wish him well.”