After 13 years at the helm, Pascagoula head coach Richie Tillman will guide his Panthers on to the baseball field for the final time Thursday night.
And, fittingly enough, he’ll do so on a field that was recently named after him.
Tillman and PHS take on visiting D’Iberville to end both the regular season as well as Region 7-6A play. The game starts at 6 p.m.
The veteran Panther coach, who has been a part of the PHS baseball staff for almost 30 years in some capacity, decided before the current season started that this would be his final year and he would retire at the end of the campaign no matter when that came.
“I just thought it was time,” Tillman said, in an exclusive interview with 228Sports over the weekend. “I’ve got a good feeling about it, and I’m comfortable stepping away when it’s my decision. A lot of coaches don’t get to do that, and I’m thankful that I can and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish as a program during my time with the program.”
Tillam, a former Pascagoula standout player as well, took over as the head man in 2011. He actually replaced interim head coach John Tomes, who finished out the last few weeks of the 2010 season after veteran PHS head coach Johnny Olsen was abruptly and unexpectedly replaced in the middle of that season.
Tillman played for Olsen, who went on the win a state championship as the head coach at Resurrection.
“I couldn’t have hand-picked a better person to take over for me at our alma mater,” Olsen said recently. “As a player, he was one of the most hard-nosed and consistent guys I ever coached. Then I was able to coach with him for 13 years as my assistant. As head coach, he has certainly carried on the success and tradition that we started and even added to it as well.”
Tillman, a 1986 PHS graduate, wasted no time in making his own mark on the PHS program, guiding the 2012 Panthers to the Class 5A state championship.
“All I wanted to do was maintain what we had already been doing and keep it successful,” Tillman continued. “It was my goal to make sure Pascagoula remain relevant in baseball in the state of Mississippi and along the Gulf Coast. I think we accomplished that.”
Tillman was also an assistant under Olsen when Pascagoula won the state championship in 1996. In addition to winning the state crown on his watch in his second season at the helm in 2012, the Panthers also lost in the state finals in 2013 and 2021.
“The 2012 team will always be my favorite obviously, but the 2021 team was the most rewarding for me as a head coach,” Tillman added. “We were so young but we developed and got better almost every day and fought all the way to the brink of another state title.”
As a player, after earning All-State honors as a catcher his senior season for the Panthers, he went on to be an All-Conference player at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and signed with Arkansas Little Rock in the Sun Belt Conference where he also garnered awards for his accolades on the playing field.
The Panthers didn’t qualify for the Class 6Astate playoffs this season, but Pascagoula missed the postseason just three times in Tillman’s 13 seasons as a head coach.
“I’ve been blessed really, and I’m very thankful for the opportunities that have come my way as both a player and a coach,” Tillman concluded. “Sure, in the end, you’d always have liked to have won more games over the years, but in all honestly I couldn’t have asked for much more.”
The Pascagoula Dugout Club surprised Tillman and many others by renaming Ingalls Field to “Richie Tillman Field” in a ceremony on Saturday during the 40th-anniversary celebration of the 1983 state championship team.
So, in the end, Tillman will end his successful career of playing and coaching on a field that will bare his name for many years to come.