By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. — Mark Thomas figures he'll be shifting a few of his purple shirts into retirement and adding a little more red and black into his wardrobe in the near future. He's fine with that. It's a sign he landed the job he wanted.
After nine years of seasoning as an assistant boys basketball coach, Thomas will get the chance to run a varsity program. He was hired Wednesday as Hannibal's new boys basketball coach, Pirates athletic director Brian Trowbridge said Thursday.
"I'm ready to give up some purple shirts," Thomas joked. "My mom is actually a teacher at Bowling Green High School, so I've been around red and black before. It'll be good to get some new colors going."
Thomas spent the past seven seasons as an assistant at Troy Buchanan, home of the purple and gold Trojans. He coached the Troy junior varsity throughout that time. Thomas previously served two seasons as an assistant coach at Van-Far under Brian Meny, who is now the coach at Palmyra.
"His work ethic is second to none," Meny said. "He is a good find for Hannibal."
Thomas has coached Troy's girls track and field team for seven seasons, the last six of which he's been the head coach. This will be his first boys basketball head coaching job.
"I'm very happy that they're giving me the chance to go ahead and start out in my first head coaching role and that they have the confidence in me to do that," Thomas said. "I'm just looking forward to the opportunity to finally have that chance. They're giving it to me, and I'm ready, and I'll do whatever it takes to make that successful."
Trowbridge said Thomas emerged out of a field of about 20 applicants.
"I think he's going to be a very good fit here in Hannibal," Trowbridge said. "He's got a good philosophy with relationship-building with kids. ... He comes highly recommended with a lot of experience at a larger program in Troy Buchanan."
As far as X's and O's, Thomas said his teams typically feature man-to-man defense and an up-tempo pace. He said he uses a motion-style offense, with set plays based on personnel.
"My players play extremely hard," Thomas said. "We like to play fast. My philosophy is I want my defense to dictate the other team's offense."
Thomas replaces Matt Pugh, who resigned March 6 after five seasons leading the Pirates. Pugh went 56-75 during his tenure at Hannibal, including 7-19 last season.
Meny said it was clear to him years ago that Thomas had the makings of a future head coach. It was evident in his dedication. When Meny went to scout future opponents, he always told his assistants they weren't required to go. Thomas did anyway.
"He was with me every step of the way," Meny said.
Thomas is a graduate of Wellsville-Middletown High School and Central Methodist University. He played two years of junior varsity college basketball at Central Methodist before spending his last two years as a student assistant coach.
Thomas, 31, is married with two daughters. He will teach middle school physical education.
"I'm really excited to come up and be in a community that has a strong tradition in athletics as well as education," Thomas said, "and just be part of that sports tradition and try to get the basketball programs where they can excel at a high level in the conference as well as the state level."