When considering other jobs, it was never easy for Bob Pickett to think about leaving Macon East Academy.
When he finally made that choice, a few days before the Fourth of July, his first stop was to see manager Glynn Lott before assembling his players.
“It was extremely emotional telling the kids and even Coach Lott,” Pickett said. “It’s not like I’m leaving on bad terms. I am forever grateful to Coach Lott for giving me a chance. His family will always be a friend. They are like family.
“Over the 10 years, not only have I seen countless players and hopefully impact a few lives, they’ve also watched my family grow. Sarah and I went there without children and now we have two. It’s the only school Walker knows.
“They’ve been great for my family. I want nothing but the best for Macon East. I will always be a knight at heart. I’ll still be rooting for them, but on the other side.”
Pickett accepted a job as defensive coordinator and assistant baseball coach at Ariton High, reuniting with Steven Kilcrease after serving on the same coaching staff at Pike Liberal Arts from 2007-2012.
Meanwhile, Lott moved quickly to fill the position, hiring baseball assistant Will Graham to fill Pickett’s position on the diamond and promoting Dwayne McWhorter to take Pickett’s role as defensive coordinator on the football team.
Still, it wasn’t easy to replace a football coach in July or find a baseball coach to take over for a perennial state championship contender.
“When he came and told me, I told him what I tell all of them: He has to do what’s best for him and his family,” Lott said. “I think this is a great opportunity for Bob. We can’t thank him enough for what he’s done here. Our relationship isn’t just mentorship, we’re friends, so I want the best for him.”
When Pickett arrived at Macon East Academy in 2013, the Knights had missed the playoffs and, while still considered one of the top baseball programs in the Alabama Independent Schools Association, had fallen short of expectations in the previous few years.
It took Pickett a few years, but the Knights won the first of five district titles under Pickett in 2015 and reached the finals that year. They have since won state championships in 2017, 2018 and 2022 and reached the semifinals in 2021, winning at least 25 games and hosting the state playoffs every year since Pickett’s arrival.
Originally a multi-sport star at Hooper Academy who envisioned himself as a basketball coach, his work on the gridiron helped the Knights earn five straight trips to the state playoffs — including three semifinal appearances — and his 261-104 record on the diamond improved his marketability in the entire state.
Pickett admits he has accepted offers before, but a public school offer from Kilcrease was too good to pass up to coach in the private school ranks without a pension plan and rising health care costs.
“They’ve had a job or two that have come up in the past,” Pickett said. “I got my master’s degree and state certification and I wasn’t looking because I know I have talent (at Macon East) for the next couple of years, but I’m also 40 and not getting any younger.
“It was part of everything. The other part of it, as a coach, I’m a competitor and I’ve been pretty successful at that. I want to see if I can do it again.
He said he didn’t make up his mind until he visited Ariton and spoke with principal Josh Herring.
“He’s a lot like Coach Lott,” Pickett said. “Coach Lott is Macon East. He bleeds red, white and blue. Mr. Herring bleeds purple and gold. He cares passionately about the school. It’s bigger than the Macon, but it’s not a huge size jump for me or (Walker). And it’s the only K-12 school in the county, so Walker will be in the school with me, and that was a plus, too.”