CHHS hoops coach Walton leaves door open for Perkins' return

Jun. 26, 2014 @ 08:28 PM

There could be spots on the bench at Chapel Hill High School for former interim basketball coach Lason Perkins, as well as those who coached with him, new Tigers’ coach Bill Walton said Thursday at the headquarters of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools during his first meeting with the local media.

Perkins said he has not spoken with Walton.

Walton said he has reached out to the assistant coaches who worked alongside Perkins.

“They want to hear me out and see what my goals and plans are. They’ve made no promises. They’re in a tough spot. I understand,” Walton said. “I would love to talk to Mr. Perkins. … He would be invaluable, because he’s worked with the kids all these years.”

Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s Board of Education last week announced that Walton would take over the basketball program at Chapel Hill High.

Last season, Perkins 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.

But Chapel Hill principal Sulura Jackson chose not to retain Perkins. She hasn’t spoken publicly about the reason for her decision, but a good number of folks who either played for or coached with Perkins told school board members that it would be a mistake to give the job to anybody but him.

Walton — 54, from rural Virginia and with aound three decades of coaching experience — said he knows what it’s like to have coached on an interim basis. That particular situation, he said, worked out for him when the coach he eventually replaced stepped down. He said he gets it with respect to what Perkins and his supporters might be going through.

“Sure it’s frustrating. Do I understand? Yes,” Walton said. “I have no idea what happened with the process. There was an opening. … I applied, interviewed, I was offered the job.”

Walton said he didn’t know Jackson prior to the hiring process. He has arrived at Chapel Hill High from Reidsville High School, where he said tension-related headaches earlier this year led to his resignation as the school’s head basketball coach.

Of course, there will be pressure at Chapel Hill High, a program that has had plenty of success in a town that loves its basketball, Walton said.

“I know there’s a lot of pressure here. I look forward to it. I’m fully capable of that. I’ve been in some big-time games and have won some and probably lost more than I’ve won. But I’ve been under that pressure before — and scrutiny.”

After Walton left Reidsville’s bench in January, the Rams finished the season 7-11 and did not make it to the state’s 2-A playoffs.

Reidsville and Carrboro High School both play basketball in the Mid-State Conference.

The essentially year-round nature of high school basketball means Chapel Hill High’ team has some catching up to do on account of the lull created by the coaching vacancy, Walton said.

“I am behind, and with dead periods coming up next week and two weeks away, that’s tough,” Walton said. “We all know you have to work year-round. You’ve got to bust your tail year-round to stay competitive and be better. That, I’m concerned about.”

Walton said he was planning to meet last night for the time with the players he’ll be coaching.

Former N.C. State guard Cameron Bennerman played for Walton when he coached at Greensboro’s Grimsley High School. Bennerman, who has played professional basketball overseas, is in the area working at a basketball camp at NCSU, Walton said. The coach said said he’s reached out to Bennerman about helping him coach at Chapel Hill High.