Former Bradwell Institute varsity basketball coach David Jones is back home in Hinesville, taking a position with First Presbyterian Christian Academy as the new athletic director and new head coach for the men’s basketball team.
The school announced its decision to bring Jones on staff Friday morning after a news conference for Highlander basketball standout Terrence Alston, who signed a scholarship to play for Brewton Parker College.
Jones coached at Bradwell for 35 years, racking up more than 615 wins before he was relieved of his duties by the Liberty County School Board in January 2008 amid allegations he failed to properly supervise his players during a basketball tournament in Atlanta.
The decision by the board split the community, as many felt Jones was only trying to discourage bad behavior among a few of his players.
"I’m happy to be coming back to the community," Jones said.
Jones said he was hired to help with a specific purpose.
"Our objective is to get into the GHSA," he said regarding his new role in moving the Highlander athletic program from the Georgia Independent School Association to the Georgia High School Association. "We want to build a program that is recognizable across the state and the South and hopefully one day to be a power."
Jones said they will transition all the school’s sports programs, not just basketball.
According to Jones, there used to be a minimum number of students who needed to be enrolled at the school in order to get into the GHSA programs. He said in March there was a GHSA reclassification committee meeting and a decision was made that schools no longer need a minimum number to get into class A.
The school administrators at FPCA decided Jones had the qualifications and experience necessary to move the athletic program to the next level.
Former Highlander head coach Darrell West will stay with the varsity squad, assisting Jones as he works to transition all his certifications and credentials from GISA to GHSA.
West has taken the Highlander varsity basketball team to two back-to-back state titles and finished the 2008-09 season undefeated at 26-0. His winning record was recently recognized by the National Private School Athletic Association when the school was named National Champions in Division V.
"We are going to follow coach Jones’ lead," West said. "He’s been down this road a lot of times and whatever advice he can give us as to what we need to start doing, we are going to do that."
"I’ve known Darrell for nearly four years, not real well, but I know he was working with Ernie (Walthour) out there (at St. James Sports Center) and he’s been able to accomplish something I never could, which is have an undefeated in a season," Jones said. "I dreamed one year I had an undefeated season and woke up and realized I was having a nightmare because it’s never happened. I always manage to find a way to lose at least a couple."
Jones went on to say coach West has laid the foundation for a winning program and will be an integral part of the team."Darrell has done an excellent job and here and we need to really clarify that I’m not coming in here and trying to take over as such or push anybody aside because he has done an excellent job," Jones said. "And hopefully everybody at the table will stay with us and continue working because I do believe in working together."
Jones said he’s been fortunate to be at schools that have been supportive of their athletic programs.
"There is nothing worse than having somebody that is not on the same page as you," he said. "So we will work together for the betterment of the program. And it will take all of us working together and having the same interest. It won’t come easy, we aren’t being arrogant about that but we this school already has the academics and that is one area that I won’t have to worry about as much as I have in years past."
Jones said the Highlanders will continue playing in the GISA for the 2009-10 season.
"Then, during the school year, the coordination starts through the GHSA state office to get admitted," he explained. "Then we will be in the process all year long to get a schedule together for all the sports."
Junior varsity coach David Linderman said they started playing the local middle schools last season.
"We are trying to get a friendly rivalry going with the local schools," Linderman said. "It’s something that we really don’t have in the county. We started by playing against the local middle schools and hopefully that will carry over as they progress to high school."
West said the transition should go smoothly.
"We already went to public school camps and we didn’t limit ourselves to private school basketball so the transition will not be quite as bad," he said.