09/12/12 — Russell Stephens officially named new boys' basketball coach at Goldsboro High

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Russell Stephens officially named new boys' basketball coach at Goldsboro High

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 12, 2012 1:49 PM

The decision made sense to Russell Stephens. It was a head scratcher to others.

Stephens announced his resignation from Southern Wayne in mid-summer and was finally approved as the new head varsity boys' basketball coach at Goldsboro High during the monthly Wayne County Board of Education meeting conducted Monday evening. He succeeds Patrick Reynell, who spent three seasons on the Cougars' bench before resigning in late spring to take a coaching job in Ohio.

The appointment ended months of speculation on just when Stephens would assume the coaching reins. He becomes the program's sixth head coach since 2001.

"Russell Stephens will be an asset to our coaching staff and to the Cougar family," Goldsboro High Principal Tonya Faison said. "(He) brings with him a wealth of knowledge for the game of basketball and years of coaching experience. I am looking forward to working with him and watching him develop the talent that we have here at Goldsboro High School."

Stephens compiled an 88-46 record in five seasons at Southern Wayne, and took all five of those teams to the postseason. His 2009 and 2010 squads either earned a share of or owned outright the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season championship. Despite losing a number of seniors to graduation, the Saints finished 19-8 in 2011 and lost to Southern Nash in the opening round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.

He's taking that success to a storied program.

Before Reynell's arrival, Goldsboro had been shaken psychologically after two coaches departed within a three-year span. Reynell tirelessly worked to repair trust issues among the players.

A disciplinarian and coaching whiz, Reynell earned his players' respect and logged a 54-27 worksheet that included a runner-up finish in the 2009 NCHSAA Class 1-A state championship game during his tenure. Goldsboro also won two Carolina 1-A Conference regular-season titles and one Carolina tournament crown.

The Cougars ended up 14-12 last season.

"I'm not taking the job to be gone next year or the year after that," Stephens said. "You're going to win games and that's obvious because of the talent you have coming through there. I just think the one thing that's missing is stability, and getting out into the community to do things.

"We've got some good kids at Goldsboro who are doing good things, and sometimes I don't think they get credit for that. We're going to get out into the community and have our faces shown."

Stephens is one of 10 non-faculty coaches on the county's payroll for 2012-13. He was just recently named the new athletics director for the City of Goldsboro, a position he likes since he sees current Goldsboro players on a daily basis.

The programs he runs also feed into the high school and his office is across the street from campus. That allows Stephens to have an open-door policy for any athlete or faculty member to come see him if a problem arises during the school day.

"All the kids know me and have come through the gym, basketball camps or they're playing pick-up games in the park," Stephens said. "But they don't know me as a varsity-level basketball coach and that's something different that they are going to have to get used to (this season). You want your kids to play hard for you. You want your kids to learn.

"The kids know that's what I'm about."

Goldsboro will depart the Carolina 1-A Conference after this season and join a six-team 2-A league next fall, according to a new realignment mandated by the NCHSAA. Not only will the Cougars renew their rivalry with Kinston, they'll see some familiar faces, too -- former Eastern Plains foes Greene Central and North Lenoir.

Ayden-Grifton and South Lenoir round out the conference.

Southern Wayne also heads into a transition period.

Dwight Smith, who has been named Stephens' successor, will prepare the team for its final season in the ECC and a move into a highly-competitive 3-A/4-A conference next fall.

"When we talked about a replacement, we needed someone who would put in the time and (that) a bonus would be someone familiar with our school and our kids," said David Lee, athletics director at Southern Wayne. "Dwight was highly recommended by Russell and his JV teams have been very successful. As an athletics director, you don't want to lose a coach like Russell, but I think Dwight will step in and do a good job.

"I wish Russell all the best at Goldsboro. They are lucky to have him."