NAUGATUCK - The search is over for a new head basketball coach at Tug Valley High School as longtime mentor Garland "Rabbit" Thompson has been chosen by the administration at TVHS to make his return to coaching in Naugatuck pending approval from the Mingo County BOE.

Thompson returns to Naugatuck where he was the head coach for eight years from 2007-15, leading the Panthers to a 152-51 record, back-to-back state championships in 2012 and 2013, five state tournament appearances, and seven sectional titles.

"We're happy to have coach Thompson back as the head basketball coach at Tug Valley, he will bring much needed experience and winning experience to our program," Tug Valley principal Dr. Doug Ward.

"No other applicant could put forth a resume at the level of winning and success at the high school level like he did."

Thompson is a Chattaroy native and a graduate of Williamson High School with an extensive coaching career not just in West Virginia but in the neighboring Bluegrass State as well.

He began his coaching career as an assistant coach at University Heights in Hopkinsville, Kentucky under Williamson native Jeff Jackson where he was a part of three Class A State Championship teams in 1996, 1998, and 1999.

He returned home to Williamson in the summer of 1999 when he became an assistant coach for the Wolfpack under head coach Curt Fletcher and they led the 'Pack to a Class A State Title in 2001 with a victory over Oceana.

He stayed at Williamson until he took the head coach position at Tug Valley in the summer of 2007, and he stayed in Naugatuck for eight solid years before resigning and taking over the head coaching duties at Mingo Central in the 2015-16 season.

After an unsuccessful year leading the Miners when they went 2-20 with not much talent on the roster, Coach Thompson decided it was time for him to step away from coaching.

That was until the Tug Valley job re-opened after the resignation of previous head coach Edwyn May last month.

Thompson was introduced as the new head coach at a press conference at the school on Wednesday morning where he had a chance to address his new team. He started by giving a quote from a 2002 film titled "Catch Me If You Can" featuring actor Christopher Walken.

"Two mice fell almost simultaneously into a large bucket of cream," coach Thompson said. "The first mouse gave up almost immediately and drowned. The second mouse struggled mightily, but wouldn't quit, until he turned that cream into butter and crawled out. As of today, I am officially that second mouse."

Thompson will be taking over a Tug Valley squad that went 13-13 a year ago but was just one game shy of returning to the state tournament as they fell 59-53 in the Region IV Co-Final to eventual runner-up Parkersburg Catholic.

The Panthers are expected to be a preseason top 10 team in Class A when the polls come out prior to next season as they return the top seven players in their rotation from a season ago.

Thompson will be joined on staff by former Williamson head coach Curt Fletcher, former Tug Valley football coach David "Moose" Ledger, and Tyler Hodge who has been an assistant basketball coach at Tug Valley for the past 13 years.

"This will be my last coaching endeavor, and I am going to give you everything I've got," Thompson said to his new team. "I know I'm trying to make lightning strike twice and that's hard to do, but it can happen."

Jarrid McCormick is a sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.

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