Walton hopes to make a name for himself at CHHS

Jul. 10, 2014 @ 04:52 PM

This Bill Walton is not that Bill Walton, the white man who played in the NBA after a supreme career at UCLA alongside the revered Coach John Wooden.

This Bill Walton — the one recently hired to take over the boys' basketball program at Chapel Hill High School — remembers coaching at Greensboro's Grimsley High School and trying to reach out to the mom of a prospective player. Walton, a black man, said he introduced himself as, well, Bill Walton, which threw the mom for a loop.

“I said, 'Ma'am, I'm not the 7-footer. I have a tan.'”

These Bill Waltons have at least two similarities: They both talk a lot, and they both talk a lot about basketball.

Walton, the Chapel Hill coach, is an open book and in June spoke freely about his divorce years ago without even being asked about it during his first meeting with local media members assembled at the headquarters of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

In this era of HIPAA rules, Walton shared that his tension-related headaches are what led him in January to resign as the boys' basketball coach at Reidsville High School.

Yet Walton may have signed up for more tension, walking into a pressure cooker at Chapel Hill High, nestled in a town that loves its hoops. He has replaced Lason Perkins, who last season as interim head coach guided the Tigers to a 19-8 record and the second round of the state's 3-A playoffs. Chapel Hill shared the 3-A Big Eight Conference championship with Orange High School.

At least on the surface, Chapel Hill's players — and presumably their parents and fans — really liked Perkins. Walton is following that.

Chapel Hill principal Sulura Jackson has not publicly elaborated on why Perkins wasn't retained in light of his success there both as an interim head coach and as an assistant coach.

That said, Walton, who sports an earring in his left ear, exudes a vibe of being as cool as they come, although he said his teams bring the noise on the court with an uptempo style. It's about getting out in transition, said Walton, who is a fan of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski but a teacher of the game who runs North Carolina coach Roy Williams' secondary break.

Walton, 54, has been coaching for nearly three decades. He'll teach physical education at Chapel Hill High but said he's not sure he'll live in Chapel Hill. The houses there cost so much, he said.

Jeff Nash, the spokesman for the school system, said he once crunched some numbers and discovered that not even half of the employees in the school system live in Chapel Hill or neighboring Carrboro.

Walton said he'd probably start the school year commuting roughly an hour from Reidsville to Chapel Hill High.

While schoolteachers all over this state are pushing for pay raises, Walton is looking forward to the bump in salary he'll get coming from rural Reidsville.

“I'll get a pretty good raise,” Walton said. “That's a big part of it, too. Let's face it, a man wants to get paid.”