01/27/04 — Bill Clingan

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Bill Clingan

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on January 27, 2004 2:00 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- When Bill Clingan attends an area high school basketball game, he gets to scout and evaluate local talent.

But there is also a good chance the 16-year Mount Olive men's basketball coach has a personal interest in who is on the sideline.

Local basketball fans need look no farther than Eastern Wayne's junior varsity boys team to find a former Mount Olive player as coach -- Terry Jones. At the varsity level, Kinston's Wells Gulledge played and was a graduate assistant under Clingan.

The list doesn't stop there.

A growing number of Mount Olive players who played for Clingan -- and many of whom assisted under him -- currently hold or have held head coaching or assistant coaching titles at the high school and college level.

Clearly, Clingan is proud of these former players turned coaches. Still, he shows no favoritism to them compared to those who choose other professions.

"We've had a lot of young men that have came through the program and decided this is what they want to do for their livelihood," Clingan said. "There are also a lot of people out there doing a lot of other things and we are proud of them."

Jones is not sure whether or not he will make a career out of coaching as he guides the Warrior JV boys in his first season.

He admits administrative work is intriguing. He hasn't had to go too far for advice on that career either, as Clingan's son Steve is currently the principal at Spring Creek High School -- after spending 14 years as an assistant under his father.

Either way, Jones, a sports management major, knows he has the rare advantage of an experienced and caring support system.

"He (Clingan) has discipline and wants to win and be successful, but in all that he takes care of his guys. That's something that I hold dear now that I'm doing my own thing," he said. "If I do go into administration and get to that level, I know I won't be by myself."

Where some collegiate coaches may try and hold back their court knowledge from their proteges, Clingan's door has been wide open to his former players.

It seems as if his approach to the game has rubbed off as well.

The youngest varsity coach in North Carolina when he was first hired at age 24, Gulledge admits he tried to do things his way early in his first season at Jacksonville High in 1998. His over-aggressive approach quickly made way to a calmer, yet still intense coaching nature, much more like what he saw as a graduate assistant at Mount Olive.

"When I first started I did it my way, and coached every single play for about half the season," Gulledge said. "I went back and tried it his way, and since then I have been more of a guy that teaches and preaches instead of just yells.

"You can get so much across by talking, and not just pointing the finger."

Just as the college game continues to evolve, so to does high school basketball. According to Clingan, with the advent of organized summer camps and increased emphasis on weight training and conditioning, high school basketball coaching is a now a 12-month job.

To want to be a coach is one thing, while actually having the ability and mental strength to coach is another.

Clingan is pleased that many of his players who have gone on to coach have had the chance to serve as graduate assistants or assistant coaches.

"Fortunately, a lot of them have had the ability to stay with me for a couple of years and have a chance to make their mind up," Clingan said. "It gives them a year or two to think about it and it doesn't hurt their resume."

Gulledge, a grad assistant under Clingan, remains thankful and proud of that opportunity.

"He allowed me to go on the road and coach and teach in practice. It went over well because of the way he helped to build it," he said. "I don't know of anyone in the state of North Carolina who has as many under his wing than coach Clingan.

"I'm happy to know I've been taught by someone great."