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Pendergrass' passion for drivers education leads him to Lady Eagles


Nixa’s girls basketball program has added a pair of former rivals to its coaching staff, most notably 12-year Kickapoo coach Jim Pendergrass.

Pendergrass will be the Lady Eagles’ freshman coach and West Plains grad Payton Richards will be an assistant to head coach Jennifer Perryman.

Pendergrass has been among the most successful coaches in southwest Missouri in recent seasons, alongside the likes of Republic coach Kris Flood, West Plains coach Scott Womack and Carl Junction coach Brad Shorter. Pendergrass’ Kickapoo record is 322-101 in 12 seasons that included a 2016 Class 5 state championship. The Lady Chiefs beat Nixa in the post-season the past four seasons.

The story behind Pendergrass’ move is based largely on his experience as a driving instructor. He owns his own driving instruction school in Springfield. Nixa offers drivers education as a class, while Springfield schools do so only on a virtual level.

“Coach Pendergrass has a strong passion for driver's ed. He wanted to come here for that. That was the first draw,” Nixa Athletics Director Brandon Clark said. “The coaching part of it was secondary. Honestly, it didn't have a whole lot to do with basketball when we first talked. He didn't even mention basketball at the start. He was more focused on the teaching job. It kind of evolved into basketball.

"Basketball just happened to have an opening and I kind of felt bad asking him if that was a position he wanted to fill,” Clark added. “His first reaction was that he didn't want to get in the way of anything coach Perryman is doing because this is her program. She felt it was a great idea having another seasoned coach on staff. We never want to turn away an experienced coach.”

Clark’s four-year tenure as AD at Kickapoo saw him promote Pendergrass from assistant to head coach in 2010 following the death of head coach Stephanie Phillips.

Pendergrass’ mother lives in Nixa and he has a 5-year-old daughter who he plans to enroll at Nixa.

Kickapoo has yet to name a replacement for Pendergrass.

“I'm sure they won't have any problem filling that spot. It's a pretty coveted position,” Clark said.

Richards played as a prep at West Plains and went on to play college ball at Drury from 2017-2021. She is in the Lady Zizzers’ 1,000-point club and ranks in the top 10 among the Lady Panthers’ leaders in career 3-point goals and assists.

Departing the Lady Eagles are coaches Jim Middleton, Carla Stubblefield and Dusty Miller.

Middleton was hired at Evangel in May.