Mike Hollingsworth has a diverse background as a teacher and a coach.

Portland East Middle School is hoping that proves beneficial both in the classroom and on the hardwood.

Hollingsworth is now at the helm of the Panther boys basketball program.

“I was ready to go when I was hired back in May,” Hollingsworth said. “I was ready to go from the get-go. Being a head boys basketball coach at either level — middle school or high school — is a great opportunity.

“I’m hoping after dead period (the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s two-week break that began on June 22 and ends on July 5), after we’ve done these individual skill practices, we can actually start playing. I think we’re going to be really successful. I see a lot of basketball at this level. We have some players. I’m really excited to get going, and I’m ready to be in the classroom. It’s been since March 13 or whatever (since school ended for the 2019-20 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic), so I’m ready to be in the classroom and be there with everybody.”

Hollingsworth — who is in his 28th year as an educator — will teach eighth-grade science.

The Lexington native and former Belmont University baseball player began his teaching career in Williamson County, followed by a stint at Nashville’s Cane Ridge High School when it opened, and then a period of time at Marshall County High School before moving to Springfield High School. Hollingsworth was at White House Middle School this past school year — his first stint in Sumner County — and served the head girls basketball coach, leading the team to a 10-7 record and a fifth-place finish in the AAA division of the Sumner County Conference.

“Being in the school system last year at White House, we did play Portland East, but that was just one time,” the 50-year-old Hollingsworth said. “I met the girls coach (Portland East’s Sloane Gilliland). We got along really well, but that was basically all I knew.

“I’ve already met some great people there. It’s been awesome.”

Hollingsworth has coached high-school softball, baseball at the high-school and middle-school levels, soccer at the high-school and middle-school levels, and basketball at both the high-school and middle-school levels.

“I wanted to get a boys (basketball) head-coaching job,” Hollingsworth said. “When I was an assistant boys coach at Marshall County, after that experience and the high-school experience at Springfield High School, that was my goal. Toward the end of last year when school kind of got crazy because we weren’t in school (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) … when the East job opened up, I thought it would be a perfect fit.”

After recently leading the boys soccer program at Springfield High, Hollingsworth is hoping to remain in basketball.

“I’ve never been a high-school head coach in basketball,” Hollingsworth said. “That may be a goal one day … but I’m pretty sure I’m going to like where I’m at.

“I’m hoping that this will be the final resting place.”

Hollingsworth is looking forward to coaching boys again.

“Coaching boys fits my style of coaching,” Hollingsworth said. “I’m probably a little more intense and energetic than most middle-school coaches. I think my high-school coaching experience contributes to much of that.”

Hollingsworth will be the Portland East boys basketball program’s fourth head coach in as many seasons, following Scott Steinbrecher, Gilliland (who coached both of the school’s basketball programs for one season) and Matt Taylor.

“I want this to be my home in education until I retire,” Hollingsworth said. “I can already see that’s where I want to be. I think (stability) is important. When kids are even in first, second or third grade and know where they’ll be going to school one day, that’s important to see that the coach has a passion and desire to build a program. It excites them to one to be there one day. That’s important to them. It’s important to me too.”

The Panthers were winless last season.

“They struggled last year,” Hollingsworth said. “To build a program, you have to have a coach who is going to be there to develop a style of play. I’m not saying building a team. I’m saying building a program. Sometimes, it takes a while. You can’t build a program when it’s a different coach year by year. We’ll have a few sixth-graders on the team. It will be good to have them year after year.”

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, Hollingsworth didn’t get to meet his players until early June.

“We weren’t even allowed to have an introductory meeting with parents or anything,” Hollingsworth said. “The first day I even met these players was the first day at the gym. After three weeks of having them, I feel like I’ve known them for three years. It’s a lot of good kids and good families.”

The team has practiced seven times over the past three weeks.

“One of the first things I told them when they came in the gym that first day … I gave them my background that I’ve been in winning programs,” Hollingsworth said. “I also told them that I’ve been on the other end of the spectrum too. I talked about last year with them. I gave them my word that last year doesn’t have to be this year. I told them that we may not win every game, but we will win games. I didn’t tell them one game … I said games … plural. Winning isn’t everything, but it is important to those kids. I told them that I’m here to make them better as a player.

“I love it. From practicing the last three weeks, I like where I’m at. I can already tell it’s going to be great.”

Hollingsworth is looking forward to resuming practices — hopefully in more of an interactive fashion if some of the COVID-related practice restrictions are removed following the dead period.

“This COVID thing is interesting,” Hollingsworth said. “We’re not allowed to scrimmage. We’re not allowed to intersquad. Everything we’re doing is working on individual skills. I think a lot of times, practices get away from that. Coaches often want to go right into running plays.

“This is actually a blessing. We’re developing the individual player right now. That will help us in the long run. They’re buying into that right now really well, and they’re all showing up. I’ve had up to 20 (players at practice) one day.”

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