Cherrelle Pullen has worn several different head-coaching hats in her career. She’s now added varsity girls’ basketball coach to that list.
Pullen was recently hired as East Jackson’s new girls’ coach, taking over for Donnie Byrom who coached one season with the program. Pullen has served as Cedar Shoals’ head softball coach for the past five seasons, while working as the girls’ varsity assistant basketball coach for the past three.
Now she’ll be in charge of a varsity basketball program for the first time.
“I’m extremely excited,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the great things I’ve been hearing about the ladies of East Jackson.”
Pullen also said she was a little nervous with her new duties.
“Simply because I’ve been conditioned and used to running one program, which was softball, but again I was the assistant basketball coach (at Cedar Shoals) so I’m not completely taken away from basketball. It’s just a different kind of task.”
And she’s used to different tasks.
This will be the third different varsity sport that the versatile Pullen has coached. In addition to softball, Pullen was a head varsity wrestling coach at Cedar Shoals for a year.
She also served middle school head-coaching stints in girls’ basketball and track and field at Hilsman in Athens.
An Athens native and Clarke Central graduate, Pullen was a three-sport athlete in college. She played basketball at Georgia Southwestern as a guard and also played softball and ran cross country while there.
Pullen said her experience has led her to encourage multi-sport participation from athletes.
“You never know what will get you in the door (to college),” she said. “Me personally, I played softball almost my entire life … I didn’t pick up a basketball, truth be told, until almost my ninth-grade year in high school. Basketball is what got me a scholarship to college.”
While serving as an assistant basketball coach at Cedar Shoals, Pullen helped lead the Jaguars to back-to-back state tournament appearances in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Pullen will take over an East Jackson team coming off its best season in program history. The Eagles tied a school record for wins (11) in 2018-19 and advanced to the state tournament for the first time ever.
“I want them to continue in the direction of making history,” Pullen said. “Obviously, this past year was the first for a few things. But I want them to have an aggressive kind of feel to themselves.”
To that end, defense will be the corner stone of her teams at East Jackson.
“I always pride myself around defense, defense, defense,” she said. “I definitely want to make sure we stand by that as a whole and continue in the direction that they left off.”
When asked about the potential of the program, Pullen believes a .500 record this season — which would be the first ever for the team — is a possibility “as long as the girls are humble and coachable and disciplined.” She, however, doesn’t want to make grand predictions.
“I like to just stay modest,” Pullen said. “I don’t know where we’ll end up come February but as long as everybody stays healthy and eligible with grades, I would hope for us to end at least above .500.”
Pullen, who will begin summer workouts with her team on Tuesday, is excited for her new job, expressing gratitude to both East Jackson principal Chanda Palmer and athletic director Shawn Lindsey for the opportunity. She also mentioned the support of East Jackson faculty member Roger Edmonds, who hired her six years ago when he served as Cedar Shoals’ athletic director.
“I’m very appreciative and blessed for this opportunity,” she said. “Sometimes change brings new obstacles and goals. But change can also be good, so like I said, I’m very excited about it.”