05/14/08 — Higginbotham takes over solid program

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Higginbotham takes over solid program

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on May 14, 2008 2:48 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A seasoned apprentice and well-trained understudy, Joey Higginbotham has finally earned the leading role.

The former Trojans' point guard was introduced as the new head men's basketball coach at Mount Olive College on Tuesday afternoon. Higginbotham succeeds Bill Clingan, who retired after 18 seasons as head coach of the Division II program.

"Our new coach bleeds Mount Olive green," Clingan said. "He's a young coach who endured a lot and sacrificed to live his dream."

As a freshman in 1996, Higginbotham was Mount Olive's starting point guard before transferring to Christopher Newport (Va.) University. He returned to Mount Olive to complete his degree in sports management and was named an assistant coach in 2000.

A native of Chesapeake, Va., Higginbotham was promoted to associate head coach in 2006 and has also spent time as the head coach of the Trojans junior varsity program.

During his time as associate head coach Higginbotham has served as the program's primary recruiter while being in charge of defensive schemes and substitutions on the court.

"I promise you that I'll work hard to build on the success that myself, coach Clingan and many others have done to help get us where we are," said Higginbotham. "One of the main things I want to stress is the passion that Coach Clingan has instilled in me is the passion I want to instill in developing young men not only on the court but off the court."

In the midst of winning over 300 games during his tenure at Mount Olive, Clingan earned a reputation for being a man of integrity while representing the school with class. Higginbotham vowed to carried on that tradition.

"We're going to do things the right way," Higginbotham said. "There's no other job in the country I want. If you want to call it a dream job, call it a dream job.

"This is where I want to be and I am absolutely thrilled to death to be in front of you guys today being announced as the next head coach at Mount Olive College and following a legend."

Higginbotham admitted to having discussions with Clingan about the longtime skipper's future during the course of the 2007-08 season, but that the talks became more serious within the past month.

"We've talked about it before, but it never really hit me until the last three weeks that this might really happen," said Higginbotham. "We've talked all year but I really didn't think it would be this year."

Under Clingan, Mount Olive has made five consecutive NCAA Division II appearances and won 20 or more games during that span. Continuing on that tradition of excellence while recruiting not just quality athletes -- but quality individuals -- are toward the top of Higginbotham's 'to-do' list.

"I want to keep it moving forward and number one we have to recruit quality players," said Higginbotham. "We need to recruit character guys that can get it done in the classroom and on the court. With the group of guys we have coming back and the guys we have coming in, I think we have that."

In his first season Higginbotham will be faced with the task of filling the void left by leading scorer and rebounder Brandon Streeter. The Trojans are also the reigning Conference Carolinas regular-season and tournament champions.

"I don't feel any pressure because I'm going into a situation where I know everybody," said Higginbotham. "I know the players and I've been recruiting the players. I just feel honored to continue the success that we have."