By Steve Williams
Gibbs’ Carol Mitchell ranks No. 13 in the nation in wins among “active” high school softball coaches.
After completing her 26th year this spring, Mitchell’s record stands at 914-279-4, a 76.5 winning percentage, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
The leader is Diane Laffey of Warren Regina High in Michigan, who has been coaching since 1963 and will turn 80 years old on August 16.
The NFHS has Laffey listed with 1,167 wins, 343 losses and 3 ties through the 2018 season. She celebrated a seventh state title on June 15 as her team finished 29-11, raising her record to 1,196-354-3.
Laffey, who said she enjoys coaching and plans to continue, has been inducted into the NFHS Hall of Fame as Michigan’s all-time winningest softball and girls’ basketball coach. She also is her school’s athletic director.
Laffey ranks No. 4 on the “all-time” list and Mitchell No. 21.
The nation’s all-time leader is Larry Niemeyer of Cedar Rapids Jefferson High in Iowa. He compiled a record of 2,089-429, an 83.0 winning percentage, in his 55-year coaching career (1958-2013).
Dennis Johnson of Eldridge North Scott in Iowa is No. 2 on the list. He had a 1,249-298-1 record from 1975-2001 and 2006-2014.
No. 3 Jim Brown of Hoover, Ala., went 1,186-319-1 from 1991-2013.
Mitchell, who has been Gibbs’ head coach since 1994, is Tennessee’s winningest active coach and all-time leader, based on the NFHS information.
Former Murfreesboro Riverdale coach Jeff Breeden, who had a 764-190-3 record from 1990-2012, is No. 31 in the nation in all-time victories and No. 2 in Tennessee.
Mitchell has coached Gibbs to five state championships. Her Lady Eagles won Class AA state titles in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2012. Mitchell also was selected as Coach of the Year for the Southeast Region of the United States in 2012.
Gibbs won the Class AAA state crown in 2017.
Mitchell’s teams also were state runners-up in 2003, 2008 and 2014, the school’s first season in Class AAA.
Gibbs’ softball program was reclassified Class AA by the TSSAA in 2018.
A 1987 Gibbs High graduate, Mitchell played on the school’s first four state title teams (1983, 1984, 1986 and 1987).