Hillside names Thurman Jordan boys' basketball coach

Jul. 25, 2014 @ 08:10 PM

Veteran coach Thurman Jordan, most recently of Holly Springs High School, has been named boys’ basketball coach at Hillside High School.

Jordan was introduced to the media Friday afternoon in the refurbished school gymnasium — The Hornets’ Nest — by athletic director Bob Hill.

Jordan replaces Crasten Davis, whose contract was not renewed.

Davis had coached the team for the past three seasons. Davis went 55-27 overall and 22-11 in the PAC-6 4-A, winning the conference tournament title in 2012 and finishing second twice and third once in the regular season. He lost twice in the second round of the state 4-A tournament, and the fourth round in 2013.

Hill said Davis was not retained “because we wanted to go in a different direction.” He did not elaborate.

Of Jordan’s hiring, Hill said: “We had a lot of great applicants and he had a great job interview. The administration made a great choice.”

“This is a very special place,” Jordan said. “I know a lot about the tradition at Hillside. I competed against Rodney Rogers while I was in high school. It’s a privilege to coach here.”

Jordan said Hillside’s talent pool — unlike Holly Springs’ — is deep and expects to win immediately, crediting Davis for “doing a good job restoring some of the tradition” at Hillside.

“I know about Hillside’s passion about basketball,” he said. “Coach (Ovester) Grays has done a great job with the girls’ program here and I intend to elevate the boys’ program to that sort of level. ... The fans won’t be disappointed, we’ll work hard.”

Jordan played high school ball at now-defunct Vance Senior High School which competed in the same conference as Hillside and future Wake Forest and NBA player Rogers.

He is a UNC Greensboro alumnus who completed his teaching certification work at N.C. Central. He spent 1998 as a student teacher at Hillside.

He worked as an assistant football, basketballl and track coach at Franklinton High School from 1998-2001 when he was promoted to head basketball coach.

He went 80-49 with the Rams, including three consecutive conference first-place finishes his final three seasons, each of which ended in the third round of the state playoffs.

He was named conference coach of the year twice in that stretch.

Jordan left Franklinton in 2006 to become the first basketball coach at Holly Springs, then a new 4-A school near Cary. Starting his program from scratch — with only freshmen and sophomores available to play on the varsity — he suffered through a long dry spell including a 1-24 2006-07 season that featured future N.C. State star C.J. Leslie, a freshman, who would transfer after that season.

Holly Springs gradually improved, eventually making it to .500 (13-13) in 2012 when it began a string of three straight state 4-A playoff appearances out of the powerful Southwest Wake 4-A Conference.

Holly Springs was 10-15 overall, 8-6 in the SWAC last season, finishing fourth.

Jordan said Hillside fans can expect to see an uptempo style of basketball. He promised an emphasis on defense — “fullcourt, pressure basketball” — and a “motion offense, a spread offense with an emphasis on dribble-drive penetration.”

He also acknowledged that he’s open to molding the offense to the talent on hand.

Hillside’s talent cupboard is not bare, despite the losses of senior forwards Malik Evans and Trevion Thompson and senior wing Timothy Mangum to graduation.

Rising senior shooting guard R.J. Robinson and as many as eight other players from last season are expected to return.

The Hillside program looks like it will take a major hit soon. Rising junior point guard Justice Kithcart, who started at Riverside as a freshman and at Hillside as a sophomore transfer, reportedly is considering a second transfer, this time to Quality Education Academy, a prep school with a perennially powerful basketball program in Winston-Salem.

Kithcart's father, James, told Herald-Sun sportswriter John McCann Friday that his son had not yet transferred and would make a decision soon. Justice Kithcart is in Las Vegas playing on an AAU team which features many Quality Education players.

Jordan said he scouted Hillside a couple times last season and has some familiarity with its players and knows there’s talent and an opportunity to win. “It’s a great feeling to be back in the (winning) conversation.”

Jordan, who will teach ninth grade English at Hillside, made it clear that academic success will be an integral part of his program.

“I tell all my players — I want you to go to college,” Jordan said. “They might not all make it, but I’m going to be in their ear, on their shoulder, walking down the hallway behind them. In 16 years, I’ve only lost one player at mid-semester because of grades.

“We’ll be really structured as far as academics are concerned ... I think (my emphasis on academics) made an impression in the interview process.”

Asked what he would tell Hillside alumni about his goals for the program, Jordan didn’t hesitate.

“We’re going to be about building that (Hillside) brand back up. First, we want to be the best in Durham and see where we can go from there,” Jordan said.

NOTES — Jordan, 42, and his wife, Vonetta, have been married 16 years and have three children — Olivia, 12, Tyler, 8, and Erin, 2. ... Contacted Friday, Crasten Davis said he expects to join another coaching staff as an assistant. “I’ve got several offers and expect to make a decision maybe by the end of next week,” Davis said. ... Kithcart, a 3-star college prospect, holds scholarship offers from UNC Wilmington, James Madison and Northern Arizona.