Ernie Walthour long has been a strong supporter of the First Presbyterian Christian Academy basketball program.
He’s also one of the area’s top community coaches.
Now, Walthour will take the reins as head basketball coach at FPCA.
He replaces his friend David Jones, who is stepping down after two eventful seasons.
“Ernie has always been behind the program from the very beginning. He was one of the initiators in getting that up and going,” Jones said. “He was always behind the scenes and very important to the program. He is a great person, a good coach and a very dear friend of mine. I wish him the best. He and David (Lindeman) will do an excellent job and there couldn’t have been a better person to take over the program than Ernie.”
Walthour officially started his new job about a week ago.
He still will retain his position as director of the St. James Sports Center and coach his AAU squads, the Coastal Crew Rebels, throughout the summer. He said many of his players already play at FPCA and that will help make his transition to the school smooth.
Not that Walthour should need much help. He already knows FPCA basketball as well as anyone.
“I’ve been there from day one when we had Joey Bell and four other kids starting the program, so it’s really good to get the opportunity now to get the head coaching job and work with the team,” he said. “We knew coach Jones wasn’t going to be returning and at that time they started searching for a coach, and the board met and asked me if I wanted to take the job. They wanted to stay in-house this time instead of going out. I wasn’t looking for a job but when the school calls and needs you, you have to step up to the plate.
Walthour said the Highlanders already started a two-week workout plan and said the goal is to rebuild the program.
“We lost some good kids to college like Jordan Johnson, DJ Felder and Mike Tige,” he said. “So it’s much like when we first got started, where we are rebuilding the program. When I first came in, we had about five or six kids and we are back at that point. But our goal is to get this team back to the top and compete for a state championship.
“We have some good kids that are looking to enroll in the school and we are looking at building this up pretty quick. We want a fourth state championship.”
Walthour said he has met with FPCA’s new AD, Jimbo Hale and soon will be putting together the basketball schedule to present to Hale for final approval.
“I have met with the new AD and he is a great guy. I look forward to working with him. We will be working very close together,” Walthour said.
Hale said FPCA is fortunate to have Walthour heading the hoops program.
“Coach Walthour is an integral part of our program,” Hale said. “He is an outstanding basketball coach. He has done a lot and sent a lot of kids to the next level. We see eye to eye on a lot of stuff. I’m very happy and we are very fortunate to have a guy of his caliber helping us out. I have no doubt coach Walthour is going to do a great job.”
Walthour said he’ll rely heavily on Linderman, who will remain with FPCA as one of his assistant coaches.
“He will be heavily involved in everything we do like he has from the beginning,” Walthour said. “It’s hard to run a good program without someone like David. He will remain in place and I have hired another assistant coach, Reginald Castille. He has been with me for a long time.”
First Presbyterian has won three boys’ state titles in the Georgia Independent School Association.
The school was on track to win its fourth championship last season when it was penalized by the GISA for having an ineligible player on the roster. The Highlanders finished the season 29-6 overall and ranked No. 19.
Despite having to rebuild, Walthour said several players who had varsity minutes last season will return.
Domonique Kirkley already has been named the team captain after displaying leadership abilities during the offseason, Walthour said while noting that De’Angelo Streeter is set to return and has improved a great deal.
Another returning payer is Michael Barnett.
“And we have some pieces that we will put around them to see if we can make them fit and make a run for another state championship. We are trying to get this team back to the top and competing for titles because that is where we’ve always been,” Walthour said.