McMahan steps down as Bentonville boys basketball coach

Assistant coaches Cole, Stadel also turn in resignations for overseas opportunities

Posted: April 8, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Bentonville coach Jason McMahan, who resigned to take on new challenges in the African country of Mali.
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Bentonville coach Jason McMahan, who resigned to take on new challenges in the African country of Mali.

BENTONVILLE -- Mali has become an important part of the lives of Jason McMahan and Brandon Cole, especially since the two of them have been over there for basketball camps each of the past three summers.

Bentonville assistant coach Brandon Cole, who resigned to take on new challenges in the African country of Mali.

The African country will become a more important part of their lives since McMahan, Bentonville High's head boys basketball coach for the past eight years, and Cole, his assistant during that time, resigned their positions in order to pursue opportunties there. Another Bentonville assistant coach, Bobby Stadel, also resigned his position, but he will head a different direction and prepare to do similar opportunities in Indonesia.

At a Glance

Jason McMahan coaching record at Bentonville High

2009-10: 8-19 (2-12 7A-West)

2010-11: 15-14 (6-8 7A-West)

2011-12: 15-14 (5-9 7A-West)

2012-13: 22-9 (9-5 7A/6A-West)

2013-14: 20-5 (12-2 7A/6A-West)

2014-15: 21-7 (12-2 7A-West)

2015-16: 21-9 (11-3 7A-West)

2016-17: 16-11 (12-2 7A-West)

Record at Bentonville: 138-88 (69-43 in conference)

Three years at Siloam Springs: 57-27 (15-10, 22-8, 20-9)

Overall record: 195-115

"I'm going to have the opportunity to move overseas and do basketball and help some people learn how to do basketball better over there," McMahan said. "We're excited about it.

"The last three years we've been able to go over there, help out and do some camps. We've done some exciting stuff over there, and the people over there are great. Now we get an opportunity to do it more day-to-day. We think we can help, and they want us to help."

The idea of moving to Mali on a more permanent basis has been on their minds over the past several months, especially after their third trip there last summer. When they arrive at the country, they have already been offered jobs similar to club coaching and skills development and camp-type company, as well as education to help young people deal with the country's high poverty rate and economic development.

McMahan and Cole, however, won't go over there immediately. They will remain in Northwest Arkansas and go through a number of training sessions until December, when they will move to France for the next 11 months and learn other skills -- mainly becoming affluent in French, the most common language in Mali.

"It's been an emotional time because we love Bentonville and love this community," Cole said. "We love this basketball team and the team coming up next year. It's a special place to be. At the same time, we are confident that this is what are supposed to do next.

"It's been a long process -- not only for he and I, but our families. We've been talking through this and finding finances for many years. With each step we've taken, we know that we need to take another step, then another."

McMahan took over Bentonville's boys basketball program after three years as head coach at Siloam Springs, where he compiled a 57-27 record and helped the Panthers win the Class 5A state championship in 2008. Since that time, the Tigers have been compiled a 138-88 overall record over the past eight seasons and a 69-43 mark in conference games during that time, including a 16-11 overall mark and a 12-2 record in the 7A-West Conference

Bentonville won one outright conference championship under McMahan in the 2014-15 season and shared the league titles on two different occasions -- with Springdale High in 2013-14 and again with Springdale Har-Ber this season. The Tigers also reached the Class 7A state championship in 2015 and 2016 and finished as the runnerup.

"We love Bentonville, and that was a big hurdle in this decison," McMahan said. "I love the Bentonville Tigers and love this community. We looked at this as a hard place to leave, and it's been tough to let that go.

"I look at the eight years here in a lot of ways as a great opportunity for us. I think at times one thing that gets lost in the shuffle is to be able to build upon something that Mike Nelson started, and we've built upon top of that. For us, there's so many friendships we've built with other coaches, friends, parents and kids over the years. That's the richest part."

Bentonville athletic director Scott Passmore said he had previous talks with McMahan and Cole about their endeavors and gave them time to think and reflect after the Tigers' season ended with a loss to Little Rock Central in the Class 7A state tournament. He met with McMahan again earlier this week, when he found out the final decision.

"I'm going to miss them because that's been a great staff," Passmore said. "They've done an outstanding job of improving Bentonville basketball. They took over a program that, at that time, had up and down years and struggled at times.

"They tried to turn things around and gain support of the community, and they continued to get better. Those guys were a positive move for the community because they are great men, and they've been great for our kids."

Passmore said Bentonville's head boys basketball coaching vacancy has been posted on the school's website, and the search for a replacement will begin immediately. He will begin accepting applications over the next few days, and his plans are to have a new coach hired in about three weeks.

"I think we'll have a lot of strong candidates for the position," he said. "We're also in a unique position because we don't have any varsity coaches over there, so we need to get one in so he can get started with tryouts and plan for summer camps.

"We need to get on it fast, but we've also got to find the right person for the job."

Sports on 04/08/2017