The Gaither High School’s varsity boys basketball team hasn’t had a winning season since 2006, but new head coach Jose Jordan wants to change that losing trend.
“We need to raise the expectations,” said Jordan, who is stepping into the new role after spending the past four seasons as the program’s junior varsity (JV) coach.
Jordan replaces Dwayne Olinger, who resigned after 16 seasons — the last 10 being consecutive losing seasons. Jordan’s promotion took effect on June 20.
“It’s a rebuilding program,” said Jordan, a former Gaither High point guard who graduated in 1988. “There’s no way around that.”
Jordan’s last head varsity boys basketball coaching job was at Seminole Presbyterian School (now Cambridge Christian) in the late 1990s. In total, Jordan has 22 years of basketball coaching experience.
Despite the program’s ongoing struggles, Jordan relishes the opportunity to become the head coach at his high school alma mater, especially since he already understands the inner workings of the school’s administration and athletics department.
“I’m very grateful for the job,” Jordan said, adding that he doesn’t think there’s another job in the county that he would have preferred.
But, the coach acknowledged it will take some time to turn around the basketball program and raise its level of expectations.
“My goals are to make Gaither basketball relevant again and to compete for championships,” he said. “We’ve got a tough district…but I think that we can definitely compete.”
While the varsity squad is likely to “take some hits” in Jordan’s first season, he hopes the group can make significant improvements in his second and third seasons.
The rebuilding process will begin with players buying into Jordan’s coaching philosophy and core values.
“I want my players to play together, play for each other and play the game the right way,” he said.
“One of the expectations that I have is that you have to practice hard. A lot of young people think they can rise to the occasion — if you don’t rise to the occasion, you’re going to fall to the level of your preparation,” he said.
In the 2015-2016 season, Gaither finished 9-15, losing seven games by 20 points or more. As the program’s JV coach, Jordan witnessed many of those listless performances.
“We got our butts kicked some nights,” he said. “You could always say it’s a lack of talent, but I don’t like to use that excuse. I don’t think our guys played to their potential, but in all fairness, this is a very tough district. Freedom (High) has an excellent basketball team. So does Sickles (High) and Wharton (High). Those teams have been good for a while.”
He continued: “If we set expectations, we focus on the right thing and our preparation is better, we can turn it around sooner rather than later.”
To quickly steer the program in the right direction, Jordan said he plans to focus more on player development, and extensive strength and conditioning.
Advancing players’ overall skillsets — ball handling, passing, shooting and rebounding — also will be key, he said.
“I think our focus will not be so much on the Xs and Os — at least not initially; the focus will be on…improving our skills,” Jordan said.
Jordan said the team’s personnel will ultimately dictate the offensive and defensive playbook, but acknowledged Gaither will run an up-tempo style of offense with a pressing defense.
“We do like to get out and run every chance we get,” he said. “The more three-on twos, two-on-ones we can create, the better. Obviously, you want to be effective in your half-court offense…but if you’re playing five-on-five, your shooting percentage is going to go down.”
“I do like to play to press as much as we can, whether it’s full-court or half-court traps,” Jordan added.
The recently hired coach expects to have “six or seven” players returning from last year’s varsity team; he’s currently in the process of filling out the rest of the roster.
“The first place that we need to (look for players) is Gaither High School’s hallways,” he said.
Jordan is also actively seeking assistant coaches, which he referred to as an ongoing process.
“I’ve got some former players that I’m looking at joining the staff,” he said.
The school hasn’t hired a JV coach or varsity assistant, but Jordan said he has a list.
“Those are key positions, and I’ve got to make sure that we get those right,” Jordan said.
Published July 20, 2016