While conducting his search for new basketball coaches at West Forsyth, athletic director Brett Phipps had two characteristics in equally high positions on his wish list: success and longevity. He appears to have found both in each of his two selections.
David May is the new girls coach at West, while Jim Cook has been tapped to take over the boys program.
May replaces Seth Chadwick, who went 8-21 overall last season, but led the program to its first-ever state tournament appearance in his only year at West.
Cook replaces Dennis Benedict, who led the Wolverines to their first-ever state tournament appearance at the end of the 2010-11 season, but was relieved of his coaching duties midway through the 2011-12 campaign following an alleged incident with a student in the classroom. West finished 2-22 overall last year.
In Benedict’s two seasons at the helm, West’s boys were a combined 7-40 overall, 2-20 in 6-AAAAA.
While building a successful, winning program is important to Phipps, establishing stability and continuity is just as important.
May and Cook are the fifth head coaches each program has had since the school opened in 2007.
“I said to myself that we’ve got to stop this turnover, we’ve got to stop the bleeding,” Phipps said. “We wanted people who would not just be here next year, but for five, 10, 15 years. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but we feel like we have two guys who want to be here, be part of the community and establish some consistency. Both of them have been where they are for a long time.”
Cook spent last season at Cocoa Beach High School in Cocoa Beach, Fla., but prior to that he was head coach for five years at Viera High School in Viera, Fla., where he started the program. In just three seasons he led the team to a state playoff berth, and in his last two seasons at Viera the team went 20-8 and 20-5. Prior to Viera, Cook was the head coach for four years at Satellite High School in Satellite, Fla. He won district coach of the year awards at both stops — 2005 at Satellite and 2010 at Viera.
May has been at Liberty Union High School in Baltimore, Ohio, near Columbus, since 2003, when he started as the head girls golf coach and junior varsity boys basketball coach. He became the varsity boys basketball coach three seasons later and then took over the girls program in 2008. Last season, Liberty Union’s girls won their first league championship since 1999 as May guided them to a 20-3 record, en route to winning league and county coach of the year honors.
Phipps said West was “blown away” by the resumes of both Cook and May, and was even more impressed after meeting them.
“We opened up our search because we really wanted to attract high-quality candidates,” Phipps said. “We had a lot of applications and were really impressed [by Cook’s and May’s]. We were excited about their resumes and then when we interviewed them, they were both even more impressive. We think they are a good fit for West Forsyth and for Forsyth County.”
Both Cook and May said that moving their families to Forsyth County was definitely something that made the jobs attractive to them. May and his wife have a daughter in eighth grade and a son in seventh, while Cook and his wife have two sons, ages 9 and 7. Both families are looking to establish roots in the community.
“We built a really good program [at Liberty Union], but my wife and I had always thought about moving south to a better climate,” said May, a lifelong Ohio resident. “When we researched the school and the community, it seemed like it would be a special opportunity for us. Then we came down and spent a long weekend, and more and more we felt like West Forsyth and Forsyth County had everything we were looking for. It all just came together.”
In fact, May said he plans to find a home as close to the school as possible.
“To me, basketball is year-round, and I spend a lot of time at school,” said May, a native of Columbus, Ohio who played college basketball on the NAIA level at the University of Rio Grande, located about 70 miles southeast of Columbus. “I don’t want to have to drive 20 or 30 minutes. I want to be five or 10 minutes away from school.”
Cook also was just as attracted to moving to Forsyth County as he was to building the West Forsyth program.
“I do like the challenge of taking a program and helping it move to the next level, and so that was definitely something that interested me,” said Cook, who was born and raised in basketball-hotbed Indiana. “And we were also looking for a place to raise a family. Forsyth County offers a great education for our kids, and we feel fortunate to have this opportunity to not only build a successful program but to also be in a great place to raise a family.”
Both coaches will be on hand at a meet-and-greet session, scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the school. They will chat with players, parents and community members and lay out their plans for their respective programs — plans that will begin to be implemented in June.
May plans to base the West offense around motion and the defense around a man-to-man philosophy. “We’ll teach motion and get those principles down, but then we’ll focus on what our personnel says we do best,” May said. “Defensively our base will be man-to-man, but then we’ll see what type of athletes we have and go from there.”
Cook also is not locked in on any particular sets. “Offenses and defenses come and go, different schemes come and go,” Cook said. “What people will see from us is a hard-working basketball team that is fundamentally sound, is hard nosed and that plays as a team. Our kids will definitely be playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back.”
Both coaches plan to move ahead of their families over the summer so that they can start implementing their systems in June.
“The summer is so important for us, especially with us just getting started. So we have to hit the ground running,” May said. “I wanted to get somewhere and build a program. I believe in stability. I was where I was for 11 years, and I don’t think it has been fair to these seniors [at West Forsyth] to now be starting up with their fourth coach in four years. It’s hard to be successful that way.
“We’re going to start with the youth programs here and really get involved in the community,” May said. “That’s how you build a successful program at the high school level.”
Cook also plans to establish a solid foundation with the local youth programs, as his sons will be deeply involved.
“We wanted our next move to be long term, in a community where our kids could grow up and where we could establish a program that’s successful and well respected over the years,” Cook said. “We want to build the type of program where the players want to come back to games and to watch practice long after they’ve graduated. We think we can do that here.”