Perkins' dismissal called mistake by many with CHHS ties

Jun. 20, 2014 @ 04:09 PM

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education agreed on Chapel Hill High School’s new boys’ basketball coach during a Thursday board meeting, approving the hiring of former Reidsville High School coach William Walton.

That was a mistake, according to players and coaches affiliated the 2013-14 Chapel Hill High boys’ basketball program.

“It’s really heartbreaking to see the, kind of, missed opportunities that could happen with the change in direction,” said Karl Hill, who last season played for Lason Perkins, the interim head coach who guided Chapel Hill to a 19-8 record and the second round of the state 3-A playoffs.

Rob Jones was one of Perkins’ assistant coaches and told board members how hoops at Chapel Hill High weren’t hitting on much until former head coach Tod Morgan showed up.

Perkins was Morgan’s top assistant and highly instrumental in CHHS becoming one of the consistently strong basketball teams in the area, rising Chapel Hill senior forward Jeremy Werden said.

Werden, who will be the upcoming school year’s student-body president at CHHS, said the Tigers’ varsity basketball team has compiled a 69-14 record during his time on campus while winning three consecutive conference championships. Perkins was a part of all of that, he said.

“It would be a travesty to let him go,” Werden said.

Chapel Hill principal Sulura Jackson elected not to retain Perkins and has not elaborated on that decision.

That decision felt “like a punch in the gut,” said Morgan, who’s now the head coach at C.B. Aycock High School in Pikeville.

Morgan left Chapel Hill for family reasons after his wife accepted a job in Craven County.

Morgan said Perkins as his associate head coach was instrumental in Chapel Hill High winning 73 percent of its games during the past six seasons that produced a 114-42 record. In that stretch, the Tigers won multiple conference championships and league tournaments, and the program sent 11 young men to play college ball, he said.

All of the players on those squads graduated, each of them contributing to a team grade-point average of at least 3.5, according to Morgan.

Kelly Barley, an assistant coach for Perkins, said the four seniors on last year’s squad are headed to college, and all of the rising seniors should follow suit.

Hill said Perkins made it possible for one of his teammates to continue playing basketball in Spain.

Jones was an assistant coach at East Chapel Hill High School but said he left that bench in order to learn under Perkins, highly regarded for his European basketball concepts that emphasize ball sharing and ball screens.

“Coach (Perkins) is a winner because he doesn’t focus on winning,” Jones said. “We focus on the process.”

A parent of a Chapel Hill basketball player told board members about that process having been put on hold because of the coaching search. The Tigers’ gym was empty while other teams in the area were getting in reps, the parent said.

There was some concern coming out of CHHS this week that the school’s math department was losing a position by not replacing the slot that was occupied by Ron Benson, who coached the girls’ soccer team to the 3-A title this past season before retiring. The prevailing thought was that the math position was being left vacant in order to make room to give Walton, the new basketball coach, a job as a physical-education teacher.

School-system spokesman Jeff Nash said those classroom moves were not about sports at CHHS. The school’s math department had been overstaffed and the PE department actually needed some help, and it wasn’t necessarily that Benson’s classroom position wasn’t filled, Nash said.

Still, the situation just doesn’t sit well with DeEarnest McLemore, another of Perkins’ assistants.

“As a staff, it’s hard to realize why we weren’t retained. We don’t have any reason of why we weren’t being retained and what we were being evaluated on,” McLemore said. “We’re graduating kids, getting them athletic scholarships, and we’re bringing in championships. That’s really what it’s all about.”

The Tigers had something special going on with Perkins and his staff, McLemore said. Now those players — particularly the seniors — will need to adjust to Walton’s ways.

“To hear that Chapel Hill High School wants to go in a new direction is confusing and a little bit disturbing to me,” Barley said.

“Hopefully, you guys don’t make the wrong decision,” McLemore told the board members.