Newton County didn’t have to look far for a new girls’ basketball coach.
As a matter of fact, they didn’t have to leave the building.
Newton County hired former Neshoba Central coach Jerry Byrd to be the new girls’ basketball coach, replacing Cory Cleveland who left for the same position at Sebastopol.
When Cleveland left late in the school year, the Newton County administration turned to Byrd, who was already teaching government and economics at the school.
“When Cory and Patsy both left, I was already teaching there,” Byrd said. “Cody (Killens) called me and talked to me about the job. I was already on campus as a teacher, so it was just a natural fit. I enjoyed the school and the kids. I knew some of the coaches and knew coach Justin Chaney and already had some relationships established. I was going to come back and teach anyway so we talked it over and I decided to give it a try and see what happened. It’s a good school and a good community.”
Byrd was quick to praise former coach Cory Cleveland and his wife, Patsy Cleveland, who also left to be the head girls coach at Noxapater this spring.
“Cory and Patsy have done a great job here and had a great job,” Byrd said. “It’s not easy getting to Jackson. He’s a good coach and a great guy. He has done a good job for a long time.”
Byrd has extensive coaching experience with stops at New Hope, Kemper County, and 12 years at Neshoba Central. Byrd said he has coached both boys’ and girls’ basketball along with football, tennis and baseball.
Byrd was named head coach late in the school year and said he is getting to know the girls on the team.
“We haven’t had a lot of practice this summer, about five days so far,” Byrd said. “There is a lot of construction going on at the gym this summer. They are putting in a new air conditioning unit. We are just trying to get through the summer right now. What days we have practiced, we have had good turnout. The summers are hard because kids are working and taking vacations and that’s something I want them to be able to do. I would like to practice every day but that’s just not possible in this day and age. But I do want them to be able to have a summer.”
Byrd said he has also hired an assistant coach in Fred Morris, whom he worked with at Neshoba Central.
“Coach Morris does a great job,” Byrd said. “We are excited about it. We have worked together at Neshoba. We think there is some talent there. I know we graduated some talented seniors, and it will be hard to replace Remini Nickey and Hannah McDougle. But the girls are working hard and just trying to get through the summer. We are just excited and appreciate the opportunity. We are looking forward to it.”