‘The Right Direction’: WSN gets new basketball coaches
On the job the first day Friday morning after being approved by the County Board of Education Thursday, new W.S. Neal basketball coaches Anthony Hayes and Buddy Powell had not met each other—but minutes into meeting each other and even before they met—the two already clicked.
The two arrived early Friday morning to get things going and met each other and already started making plans for their upcoming first seasons as an Eagle of East Brewton.
“I just appreciate the opportunity and I just can’t wait to get started,” Powell said. “We both got here an hour early and we are just chomping at the bit. I pulled into the parking lot today and did not see coach (Doug) Hoehn’s truck, but I saw a car at the gym. I just knew that was the other basketball coach and we just went in the gym and just started talking and making plans.”
Hayes, although new at W.S. Neal, is not new to the area. The 33-year-old most recently coached at Escambia County High School in Atmore.
“I am originally from Century so I am familiar with the area,” Hayes said. “I have ties to the Brewton area with a brother on the law enforcement force here. I am married and have three kids and I just love to coach basketball. My first year out of college I was at Straughn High School and then I had six years in at Escambia County High School and also had a coaching stint at Lee High School. Now, I am a Neal Eagle.”
Hayes said the direction of the program and where they are headed attracted him to W.S. Neal.
“We have a new athletic director and some new coaches in,” Hayes said. “When you sit down and talk with them, everything is genuine and to the point. It is for the kids and they want Neal to be great. I want to be part of that greatness also.”
Hayes said there are several things he hopes to accomplish at W.S. Neal.
“First off, the main thing is to get these kids ready for life and not just basketball,” he said. “We need them to contribute to society off the floor. If we can do that, the job on the floor is going to be the easy part. I like to be up-tempo and to press and get easy buckets. We have to learn the fundamentals. We may not be able to do all those things, but fundamentals are a must. It is a must for us here. I am just excited to be here. People may say it is a challenge, but for me it is just another opportunity. We are going to work everyday. I can’t say that we are going to win them all, but we are going to put a product on the floor that the school and the community and everybody can be proud of.”
Hayes said he wanted to thank the school board, the superintendent, the administration at Neal and coach Hoehn for the opportunity.
“Not the opportunity to just coach, but to help young men and women,” he said. “We are excited. We are both glad to be here and want to be here for a long time. Go Eagles.”
Powell said he agreed with everything Hayes had to say.
“Coach Hayes and I have only known each other for 30 minutes and I can tell you we are already on the same page,” Powell said. “A lot of the things he said we are going to do and that is work hard. I am going to get to know my students and make sure my student-athletes are going to perform well in the classroom as on the floor. We are going to work well and get better. We have talked already about ways to make our programs better. Right now the boys and the girls play on the same night. We have talked about how we are going to help our programs out when we get our new gyms next year. We want to start a Thanksgiving or Christmas tournament and that will be good timing with the new gyms coming. We just want to move the program further. I am just excited.”
Powell is a livelong Santa Rosa County resident having being born in Selma in 1959.
“So I am not a spring chicken anymore,” Powell said. “I am married with four kids and everything is great in my life. I knew (W.S. Neal baseball coach) Coy Campbell and I have followed his baseball program a little bit. Another kid that I coached when we played against Coy is really good friends with Coy and that is Benji West at Milton High School. I told Benji around Christmas that I was thinking about retiring and getting back in the classroom and get a whistle around my neck because I missed it.”
Powell said West told him to call Campbell and he gave me his number.
“Before you know it I was talking to coach (Hoehn) on the phone,” Powell said. “I started gathering all my certificates from the state of Alabama and I applied and I met (superintendent) Mr. (Randall) Little. Like coach (Hayes) said, the vision here is something special. Coach (Hoehn) is really assembling a lot of people that I think will take us forward.”
Powell said he has served under three really good coaches in his coaching tenure.
“I have been under Clarence Smith at Jay who was there for 31 yeas and I learned a lot from him,” he said. “I coached under Tony McDonald at Allentown and then Murray Rutledge at Milton. I have done the 4A, 5A and the 1A stuff and this really feels like home already and I am so excited. I probably have talked with coach Hoehn for a total of two hours, but everything he said are things I believe in. I felt comfortable talking to him in the first five minutes. I really, really feel so blessed to be here. I really wanted this badly. I am very thankful.”
Hoehn said he thinks Hayes and Powell will both lead W.S. Neal basketball into the right direction.
“(Former W.S. Neal basketball) coach (Kason) Whitten took a job in Chicago and we wish him well,” Hoehn said. “Whenever you get a chance to hire a coach, you are always looking to upgrade. It does not matter how well the last coach did for you, as athletic director, I am looking to upgrade every program in the school. We want to win at everything. That includes every single sport, guys and girls. I wanted to separate the boys coach from the girls coach and just have one coach for each.”
Hoehn said he had a lot of strong applicants for this job.
“As far as coach Hayes, I want someone with our boys because most of his players are football players too,” he said. “When I talked to him and looked at his record, he has an high overall winning record broken down in region games, non-region games, playoff games, home games and away games. I also wanted someone with championship experience and he took Escambia County to the Final Four and the Sweet 16. He has won everywhere he has been and even when he was an assistant they won. He has done a good job of getting players college scholarships and that is important. We have nine athletes going to play college sports this year in various sports. We are expecting a 10th to sign in a week or two and that is the direction we want to go here. We want them to play at the next level and we want to do a good job of coaching around here to get that done. We are fortunate to have Patty Frazier and Todd Williamson who are both deeply involved on the academic side of things. With coach Hayes and his championship experience, we are taking a step in the right direction and improving our program with this hire.”
With coach Powell, Hoehn said he is going to bring W.S. Neal a lot of experience.
“He has been teaching for years and was principal at Milton High and Middle School,” Hoehn said. “He has seen it all. He knows how to interact with the parents and the kids. He understands kids and you need that as a coach. You have to wear many hats these days and when I was able to get a seasoned veteran like coach Powell, he has worked with some several good guys in basketball and they have all won and won a lot and he was an intrical part in their success. So whenever I can get a guy with his experience in the classroom and as an administrator, that is huge for our school as a whole. He is making the right decision in my judgment to come back to coach after going into administration. He is coming back to his first love.”
While Hayes and Powell shared their excitement about their new jobs, Hoehn said he is excited about both hires.
“We think we really have a good opportunity to move our basketball programs in the right direction now,” Hoehn said. “We are getting stronger with every athletic program at this school. That includes male and female. We are not satisfied, but we are going to get there and these two are going to help us.”
With Hayes comes experience in many avenues of basketball. He has been a high school coach for girls and boys at Lee High School and Straughn, a four-year player at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, a semi-pro player for the Magic City Court Kings for one year and a member of the AND 1 basketball group for a couple years.
The coaching change is the seventh time in eight years for the W.S. Neal boys basketball team and the sixth time in seven years for the Lady Eagle basketball, the two programs will be under new leadership.
Kason Whitten took over as head coach for the boys and girls basketball teams at W.S. Neal in 2011-12 seasons and coached two seasons. For the boys, Whitten replaced Derek Roberts (2010-11) at W.S. Neal. Before Roberts at W.S. Neal, the Eagles were coached by Chuck Phillips (2009-10), Blaine Hathcock (2008-09), Tommy Suitts (2007-08) and Robbie Grace (2006-07). For the Lady Eagles, Whitten replaced John Saxon (2010-11), Roberts (2009-10), Olivia Stephens (2008-09) and Steve Lambert (2007-08).
Hayes will also be the assistant track coach at W.S. Neal while Powell will be head golf coach. The W.S. Neal basketball program will have tryouts for their 2013-2014 teams on Wednesday, July 10. Girls tryouts will be at 10 a.m. while the boys will tryout at noon. Tryouts will be at the W.S. Neal gym.