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Ozark grad McGee has turned Willard into perennial power


Ozark grad Scott McGee has become one of SWMO’s winningest coaches in any sport since making the move from Ozark to Willard 16 years ago.

Over the past 10 years, Willard has earned six Final Four berths and claimed the Class 5 state championship in 2021. McGee’s Tigers are on track toward a COC championship this spring. They entered this week 19-8 overall, 7-0 in league play and owned an eight-game winning streak.

McGee led Willard over his alma mater by a 2-1 count last week.

McGee is enjoying the same kind of success at Willard that he was a part of as a player and an assistant coach at Ozark. From 2003-2011, Ozark won outright or shared the COC championship every season.

“This place is so special. It's always fun to come back,” McGee said. “Ozark has such a good baseball tradition. This field is almost a historical landmark in this town. You're almost intimidated because you know how good (Ozark) has always been. It makes it tough to coach against them sometimes.”

McGee is part of former Ozark coach Mike Essick’s coaching tree that also includes Kickapoo coach Jason Howser and current Ozark coach Justin Sundlie.

McGee relates his appreciation for experiences under Essick remains as strong as ever.

“You probably agreed with 90 percent of what coach Essick did while you were coaching with him," McGee said. “Since I've become a head coach, the 10 percent of the time that I disagreed with him, nine percent of the time he was right.

“I still do a lot of the same things he taught me,” he added. “What he did for southwest Missouri baseball was instrumental in this area being so good. We have so many Division I players and kids getting drafted. Mike Essick was the starter of that in this area.”

McGee steers far from complacency and is eager to chase after success each season in the same fashion Essick did.

“Mike always talked about once you start becoming good, everyone expects it,” McGee said. “You have this standard to uphold and you can't rest on your laurels. You've got to keep on pushing and look at new ways to get better.”

McGee’s ties to Ozark are still strong. His parents and his wife’s parents remain in Ozark. But looking back, he’s confident he made the right move by going to Willard.

“We were the only ones from either one of our families who ever considered leaving Ozark,” he said. “It was tough (moving). But I was 25 years old and got the opportunity to be a head coach. I jumped on it.”