Services planned for longtime Prentiss Christian coach and teacher

Published 4:28 am Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Longtime Prentiss Christian coach and teacher, Coach Ira Coates passed away at Jefferson Davis County Extended Care Facility on Sept, 2.

A Celebration of Life service will be held on Sept. 7 at 4 p.m. with visitation from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m., all at Hazlehurst United Methodist Church.

He was born on July 13, 1939, to Percy Ware Coates and Nancy Lucas Coates in Pinola,

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“Big” Ira was famously known as “Killer” Coates and “The Mendenhall Mauler” during his high school football glory days at Mendenhall High School in the late 1950s.  He also played football on scholarship at Mississippi State University, Copiah-Lincoln Junior College, and finished up his college career at Delta State University.  A Junior College All-American, he played in the National Junior College All-Star Game in New Mexico in 1959.  He was inducted into the Co-Lin Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

After college he married Anna Carolyn West of Hazlehurst, and they had five children, Renee, Lisa, Amy, Joe Buck, and John.

Coates began his football and basketball coaching career at St. Martin Junior High in Ocean Springs in 1964. From there he coached at Carr Junior High in Vicksburg and Ouachita Parish Junior High in Monroe, Louisiana, before coming back to Copiah County to coach at Co-Lin High School/Wesson Attendance Center from 1967-1970, then Copiah Academy from 1970-1974.

He moved to Prentiss Christian School in 1993 and coached through 2002, where he won a Junior District Championship and a MAIS State Championship. He continued to teach P.E., Health, and American History until 2018.

He was an avid World War II buff, and fan of John Wayne westerns.

He touched the lives of hundreds of young men and women through his coaching and teaching career, and he rarely went anywhere that he didn’t know someone there. He was an avid hunter, fisherman, knife collector, and woodworking craftsman. He also mowed many a football field, fixed many a toilet at the schools where he taught, and refereed hundreds of football games. Even his grandkids called him “Coach.”

As his son, Joe Coates, reported in The Copiah County Courier in October 2012 when Coach was inducted into the Co-Lin Sports Hall of Fame, his presenter Curtis McMillian described Ira as “a bruising fullback with natural talent who left cleat marks in the backs of his own offensive linemen if they didn’t get out of his way.”  His friends Pat Hennington, Alton Ricks, Alton Greenlea, and Mike Hux told his kids, “Ira was the meanest, toughest, son-of-a-gun that ever played football;” and “We used to run your Daddy ‘til his tongue dragged the ground and then kept on giving him the ball!” Some of his former players and students told us, “He knew how to get our attention, and he knew how to keep it!” Daddy told us about having to practice during half-time several times when he played football because Coach Wallace Beach was upset with their first half performance. Coach Beach’s threat to make them walk home behind the bus was taken seriously, and their opponents suffered crushing defeats after it was issued!

He leaves behind his wife, Cindy Smith Coates, of Prentiss, and his children, Renee (Roger) Berry of Hazlehurst. Lisa Coates Jackson of Wesson, Amy Coates (Kevin) Falcon of Houston, Texas, Joe Buck (Karen) Coates of Wesson, John Thomas (Brandi) Coates of Crystal Springs, and step-daughter Angela (John) Lollis of D’Iberville; grandchildren, Brodie Jackson, Connor Coates, Emily Claire Coates, Heather Harrison, Holly Harrison, Mary Beth Coates, Grayson Coates, Jessie Grace Cole, and step-granddaughter, Alexis (Mason) Boudreaux; five nieces and nephews, many first cousins, and hundreds of friends, former students, players and referee buddies.

If you have a Coach Coates story, please come share it at the Memorial Service on Sept. 7 or email it to