03/15/07 — A jack of all trades

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A jack of all trades

By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on March 15, 2007 2:34 PM

Sitting at his desk a few years back, Randy Jordan prepared for his team's upcoming practice when one of his players stumbled into his office bruised and scraped.

His talented freshman Daquan Joyner had been walking to Goldsboro High School when he had been struck by an oncoming car.

"It was scary," Jordan said. "We took care of it, called his mom and got him medical attention right away. It made me feel very good in that here's a freshman that we've only had just a few months and he trusts us.

"That made us as coaches feel very good that he believes in us. Those are the kinds of things that you look for, that you hope you build that kind of relationship with the student-athlete."

This is the life of a high school basketball coach whose duties extend off the court and around the clock these days.

Early on, Jordan knew this was the profession for him -- once he realized he wasn't quite talented enough to play sports at the next level.

"I knew in eighth grade, if I wasn't going to make it as an athlete at a higher level then I wanted to coach," Jordan said. "I had some great high school coaches that I still respect tremendously to this day and they had a really big influence on, not just my career path, but who I became and what my values are. I was real lucky."

Jordan's coaching career began at the young age of 23 when he coached at a Catholic high school in upstate New York. There he served as the head basketball coach and as assistant coaches for baseball and football.

"It was a great experience and confirmed what I wanted to do," he said.

After bouncing around the high school and college coaching ranks, Jordan arrived at Goldsboro High School in 2001 and his Cougars finished as the state runner-up in his second season. In his six years at the school, Jordan's program has been a successful one in terms of victories, producing talented players and graduating student-athletes.

Coaching high school basketball, however, is so much more than just wins and losses. These days, it is more of a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year job -- not just coaching practices and games.

The coach/student-athlete relationship has evolved to one where the coach has a number of roles.

"You are a jack of all trades," explained Jordan. "You have to cover all bases. You really need to look at it as if this was your child, how would you want them treated."

Jordan has taken that philosophy to heart with his team at Goldsboro.

"You need now to spend more time with student-athletes," said Jordan. "You are a parent to them, a role model and a mentor. Someone they can come to and talk to -- that they trust."

Serving as an extra parent means sometimes doing what Jordan considers to be the hardest chore in coaching -- saying no.

"Saying no is the toughest word in the English language," he explained. "No you don't have the talent to go there, but you can go here. No you can't do that.

"You don't ever want to disappoint them. They put so much trust and faith in you that you don't want to let them down, but it's part of reality."

Reality is something parents have a hard time grasping these days when dealing with their expectations of their son or daughter.

Watching all of the high profiled college basketball and NBA games on television has fueled the dream of some parents who believe their child is talented enough to play on that stage.

"I think 30 years ago people had a more realistic perspective of ability," Jordan said. "We have a lot of parents of student-athletes -- not just here -- but in the world who believe that their child is going to that next level.

"But not everyone makes it. Very few make it. Less than one-half of a one percent make it," he said. "So I think perceptions and expectations were more realistic then."

For the minuscule amount of student-athletes who do have the ability to play in college, Jordan shoulders a heavy load in helping find the school that's right for them.

"I try to be very active in college recruiting as far as the basketball goes," Jordan said. "I think it's important that parents are involved too in every aspect. Parents need to be informed, and in a lot of cases, we have that information."

In previous years, Goldsboro has invited Jon Fagg, who serves as the Associate Athletics Director for Compliance, to speak with parents on what to expect and what is needed during the college recruiting process.

Jordan also spends countless hours faxing information, writing letters, sending e-mails, making phone calls and sending text messages to other schools to help his players get noticed and hopefully, a scholarship.

"It's constant being on the phone to set up visits and that type of thing," said Jordan, whose roster boasts East Carolina signee Daquan Joyner and college prospects like Tim Kornegay. "It's a long process, but you need to be involved with it as a coach."

A large amount of the required preparation is in academics. Attaining the grades needed for admission to college and to remain eligible for high school is a major focus of a coach's responsibilities.

"We've taken an even stronger stance then we have in the past," Jordan said. "We're trying to raise our standards across the board for what we require from our student athletes. That's going to be higher than the minimum of three out of four classes and 13.5 days absent per semester."

At Goldsboro, student-athletes are given constant attention to ensure their academic needs are being met. While Jordan is pleased with what has been done, he believes more can be accomplished in the future with extra help.

"We need to constantly monitor student athletes when they get their progress reports," Jordan said. "We need to set up tutoring sessions for them, extra teaching, more after-school sessions and run mandatory study tables. Those are all things we've done a pretty good job of in the past, but not as good of a job as we could have.

"We have to be better with that and our coaches are committed to doing that."

In the end, nothing is more satisfying for Jordan then when he watches his players graduate.

"It's a wonderful feeling seeing that young man or woman walk across that stage and get that high school diploma, knowing they have a chance to go on and be successful," he said. "You hope that you have a very small role in helping them mature and realize their potential."

When the school year comes to a close, Jordan's seniors graduate and move on while his underclassmen face a rigorous schedule preparing them for the upcoming season.

"Your job as a coach is not just two hours a day coaching, a practice and a game -- it's a full-time job now with summers," Jordan said. "You've got to spend time in the summers with the kids in order to remain competitive."

In addition to putting his players through a basketball camp at Goldsboro, Jordan takes his team to a college campus for a camp. Every other year Goldsboro travels to the campus of South Carolina in Columbia where Goldsboro alumnus Dave Odom serves as men's basketball coach.

"We take the kids to a college campus and expose them to big time athletics," Jordan said. "They live in the dorms, eat in the cafeteria and play at the arena. A lot of our kids have never been on a Division I campus before they come here."

Also during the summer, Jordan and his players participate in the Wayne County Summer League where players get an additional 20 games and five weeks of basketball action.

The year-round time commitment is immense for a high school coach and the hours away from family is difficult, but Jordan's wife Ellen is incredibly supportive.

"I'm very, very lucky she understands the time commitments," said Jordan, whose wife used to coach high school basketball herself. "I'm married way over my head. My wife loves basketball -- loves athletics.

"She understands what it takes and she goes to every game -- home and away. I'm a blessed man in that respect."

While the time commitment is a strain, the perks of the job make it all worthwhile for Jordan who says the most enjoyable aspect of his profession is working with his kids and watching them mature over time. He also feels privileged to have the opportunity to coach at Goldsboro.

"Goldsboro High School is, to me, the best job in the country," Jordan said.

The Cougar fans are a big reason why Jordan loves coming to work every day.

"Goldsboro fans ... you've got to love them," Jordan said. "They want to win, they expect to win and that's what you want. You want to be part of an environment where the people have high expectations every year because it makes you as a coach better and the student-athletes better.

"Goldsboro is a very supportive community."

The benefits aside, the high school coaching profession is not for everyone. The massive amount of responsibilities is enough to detour many people from getting into the field, but it's a job meant for Jordan.

"It's a great job," Jordan said. "I couldn't see myself doing anything else."