Leader Blues

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

SPORTS>> Joyner to coach Red Devils

IN SHORT: Former North Pulaski coach moving across town to lead Red Devils

By Ray Benton
Leader sports writer

Former North Pulaski head boys basketball coach Victor Joyner accepted the boys head coaching job at Jacksonville High School Monday night. The selection of Joyner ends a search to fill the position that began back in May with the resignation of former head coach Jerry Wilson.

Wilson was on the search committee that interviewed five applicants, and said Joyner was the best fit.

“He’s a guy with lots of success at the high school level, and he’s already a member of this community. He does a lot of stuff with the kids in Jacksonville outside of school. I think it will be a good fit.”

Joyner had many words to describe his feelings when he was informed he got the job.

“I was relieved, excited, a little scared maybe. It’s a new challenge and there are high expectations at Jacksonville. But that’s what makes me go. I love a challenge.”

Jacksonville principal Kenneth Clarke made the final decision on the hire, and said that experience was a major issue among those interviewed.

“He’s the only one (who interviewed) who was a head coach,” Clarke said. “He’s been a head coach for a long time and he’s been very successful. You can’t overlook that kind of experience.”
Experience wasn’t the only contributing factor to Clarke’s decision.

“He a member of this community and he’s very involved. Plus he seemed very focused on the kids. He stressed in his interview that he has always worked hard for his kids as far as helping them make it to the next level, and that he would continue to do so. That was very impressive to me. That’s what we’re here for. He seemed just as much concerned with helping his players get into

college and become better young men, as he did with wins.”

Joyner also expressed a sincere sadness at leaving the site of his first head-coaching job. He even sneaked in at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday to clean out his office, saying he wasn’t ready to say goodbye to anyone just yet.

“I just don’t think I could have handled it at this point,” Joyner said. “I had too many things going through my mind, and there are some people over there that are just like my family. I’ve been there 11 years, and I’ve grown to love those people.”

Joyner reflected on his first day at NP, and shared a spiritual moment that paralleled his first and last day on the job.

“When I first got to NP 11 years ago, I did the same thing and brought everything in here late, late at night,” Joyner said. “I turned the clock on, and it was the only light in the gym. I sat down in the middle of that floor and prayed that I would be able to do what’s right by all the kids that would be coming through here.

“I did the same thing last night. I turned the clock on and sat down in the middle of the floor and prayed. But when I turned the clock on, it was running. It was running down from eight minutes. And then when I looked over, the direction arrow was on. There’s a short in it and it doesn’t come on sometimes, but it came on, and it was pointing to the visitors bench, and it was turned and pointing towards Jacksonville. It might have been nothing, but it made me feel like it was okay to leave. Because I was really struggling to walk out of there.”

Joyner brings an impressive resume from NP, including a streak of about 13 straight wins over JHS. He won eight conference titles, including four straight from 2000 through 2003.

His teams advanced to three state tournament semifinals and made appearances in nine straight state tournaments.

Most of those state tournament appearances came in class AAAA, where NP is one of the largest schools in the classification. He’ll now be taking over one of the smallest schools in the state’s largest classification.

Joyner simply looks at it as another challenge.

“This is without a doubt the toughest conference, but like I said, it’s a new challenge and that’s what I love,” Joyner said. “I couldn’t sleep all night thinking about Jonesboro and West Memphis and those guys. I’m taking over a program in a tough conference that hasn’t been winning. I’m going to have to teach a whole new system, but we’ll get there. I want to get Jacksonville High School to No. 1 in the state and keep ‘em in the top five of the rankings all the time. That’s my dream for this school.”

North Pulaski and Jacksonville are natural rivals, and the two schools gear up for each other in every sport, but Joyner says he never looked at it as a rivalry game.

“I’ve always considered myself a Jacksonville coach,” Joyner said. “It’s not been at Jacksonville High School, but it was still Jacksonville kids, and that’s who I’m here for. I never really looked at the kids at Jacksonville as rivals, and I won’t look at the NP kids that way now. I realize some people don’t look at North Pulaski as a Jacksonville school, but I always have and I’ll continue to do so.”