Voyager Academy, inaugural coach Patrick Walton, part ways
The only head coach the Voyager Academy basketball program has ever had has been removed from the Vikings’ bench despite four successive years of improved win totals since the program began with junior-varsity freshmen in 2010-11.
“I enjoyed my four years there at Voyager Academy. It was a unique experience,” Patrick Walton said.
“First of all, Coach Walton was a great person for this program,” Voyager athletics director Mike Germino said. “We told him that his contract would not be renewed moving forward after this (past) season.”
Germino said personnel rules prevent him from commenting further.
“I decided, with the support of administration, that we had gone as far as we thought that we could go, and we decided that this year was a time that we were just going to go in a different direction,” Germino said. “At no point did Coach Walton do anything wrong during his time here.”
Walton did a number of things right, including leading the Vikings to their first regular-season title in the 1-A North Central Athletic Conference this season, repeating as NCAC Tournament champion and returning to the state playoffs for the second straight year.
“He’s done a lot for the program. Basically, we started from the bottom and basically have worked our way up,” Germino said.
Walton said his four seasons with Voyager included a junior-varsity campaign in 2010-11, the year the charter school opened to high school students. That Vikings team had freshmen only and went 2-17, he said.
But those guys moved up to the varsity level and followed with seasons of 8-18, 16-10 and 20-10, losing in the first round of the state playoffs each of the last two years.
Voyager assistant coach Mike Huff is in charge of the team until a new coach is named, Germino said. Huff and assistant coach Melvin Scott, who played at North Carolina, have been overseeing the Vikings’ offseason workouts.
Scott and Huff are among 52 applicants to become Voyager’s new coach, Germino said. Both teach physical education at the school. Walton did not teach at Voyager.
Voyager has closed the application process for its next basketball coach, Germino said.
“We are looking to take our basketball program to the next step,” Germino said, adding that the next coach at Voyager will need to be skilled both in player development and Xs and Os, Germino said.
Huff played professional basketball overseas before becoming coordinator of sports performance at the Michael W. Krzyzewski Human Performance Lab at Duke University.
Scott played pro ball overseas and was on the UNC squad that won the national championship in 2005.
“What Coach Walton did over the last four years was tremendous,” Germino said. “We are looking to make a bigger step.”
Voyager’s next coach will inherit an experienced core that includes Diante Parker, Christopher Sause and Gary Ford Jr. All of them started as juniors at some point this season.
The best player for Voyager next season likely will be 6-8 Jay Huff, a player with length and a knack for stuffing other shooters' shots and sinking his own 3-pointers. He’s the son of Mike Huff.
Walton said he still wants to coach, adding that it’s too soon to say whether he’ll be able to bring himself to sit in the stands and watch Ford bring the ball up the floor and get it to Sause, Huff and Parker.
“Being able to build a program and watch it come from barely winning any games to being a championship-caliber type program, all that was great,” Walton said about his time at Voyager. “They wanted to move in a different direction.”