Former South Georgia King and Liberty County Recreation Department basketball coach Shane Smith has been hired as the new boys’ varsity basketball coach at First Presbyterian Christian Academy.
The decision wasn’t an easy one as many Highlander athletes, staff, administration and board of directors still are coping with the death of former coach Ernie Walthour. He was killed in an apparent armed robbery July 1. His murder remains unsolved.
But the basketball season is quickly approaching and the FPCA staff knew a time would come to fill Walthour’s vacancy. Smith and Walthour enjoyed a friendly rivalry, as Walthour’s Coastal Crew Rebels and the South Georgia Kings often battled for local bragging rights. But Smith said he feels honored to take on the coaching job.
“Ernie and I were good friends since we were middle-school-aged kids,” Smith said. “We knew each other for well over 30 years. Those are very big shoes I have to fill. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to do it. I understand it is big shoes to fill, not only due to Ernie but we had coaches before who have been extremely successful here.”
The Highlanders won two state titles under their first head coach, Darrell West, one state title under David Jones and have been state runners-up two years in a row under Walthour.
The Highlander basketball program was FPCA’s first athletic program to receive scholarship offers and has the most athletes currently playing at the college level.
Smith, who coached the South Georgia Kings for four years and at the LCRD for 10, said he felt fortunate to receive the job offer.
“I’ve always wanted to coach at the high-school level, and this gives me the opportunity to do that,” he said. “My goal is to keep the program at the same level that it has been. The pressure is on.”
He said JV coach David Linderman will be working alongside him with the varsity team, much like he did with West, Jones and Walthour.
“Linderman has been here since the beginning of the program and knows everyone and everything,” Smith said. “I feel fortunate to have him back as my right hand. We have some good young kids that are here … and the goal is to build the program from the bottom up.”
The new head coach said most of the varsity boys still are playing football.
“Their last game will be Nov. 8, so I envision getting them into the gym on Nov. 9,” he said. “I want them in the gym immediately because our first game will be Dec. 2, so we are playing with a short clock there.”
In the meantime, Smith said he will be busy watching film of last year’s opponents.
“I’ve been watching film on Memorial and Bethesda from last season, and I am very familiar with them and I will get familiar with every school we intend to play,” he said.