Filling the vacancies… Harrison, Blevins move into assistant basketball coach positions at EHS
BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
When Richard Van Huss was recently selected as the Elizabethton Director of Schools and Craig Emmert decided to step away for personal reasons, Elizabethton boys basketball head coach was left with trying to fill both assistant coach empty seats on the bench to help lead the program.
As fate would have it, two local county coaches who had many years of experience in head coaching roles were looking to make the move to the city school system due to having young children who are just getting their education started.
Thanks to Van Huss and Elizabethton Principal, Dr. Jon Minton, the Cyclones now have filled those voids in a huge way with the hiring of former Cloudland High School head basketball coach Gary Harrison and former Unaka High School head baseball coach Tee Blevins.
Harrison had spent 14 years at Cloudland and Blevins has been coaching for 10 years and also played on the Rangers 2004 State Championship basketball team as a sophomore.
“Those guys going out and being able to get two guys like this being former head coaches coming in, I don’t know what the odds are on that but its almost impossible,” said Honeycutt about the two additions. “It’s hard to get this kind of help. Being with these guys the last couple of days, it just seems like they are going to be really good additions.
“They are very trust-worthy guys which I value a lot and just being in head coaching roles, they know what it’s like to be in that position. Having the humility to come down and be an assistant speaks a lot of their character and what they value.
“These guys came in went to work and are very excited. We’ve not had a lot of turnover in these positions. Maybe they can bring some outside perspective that can change our minds on some things – maybe help us to get a fresh perspective. I am very excited to have them.”
Harrison’s journey from the Roan Mountain began with the move of his family over a year ago and the opportunity was just something that he couldn’t pass up.
“The opportunity just presented itself,” said Harrison. Lucas and I have gone to church together for several years and we have had a good relationship even prior to this presenting itself.
“I love Roan Mountain and the Cloudland community. The 14 years that I coached there in various roles I wouldn’t take away for anything. Great people, great kids, and a great community.
“About a year ago we moved into Elizabethton and I live about 1.2 miles from the school now and my kids are getting ready to start in this system and it just felt like a total right fit and time for a change,” Harrison continued. “I’ve been here four days and I have loved every minute of it and am just excited to be here.”
In his new role, Harrison hopes that just like a good miner that he can put his eye on some kids that have uncovered potential and possibly help polish that player into a contributing role on the Cyclone team as well as be an asset as an educator at the high school.
“I hope to maximize both roles. I am going to teach English 1 here and whatever else they ask me to do. As far as coaching, sometimes you have to see diamonds in the rough as I did at Cloudland and I hope to see some things in kids here that I can help maximize that potential that might go overlooked in other situations,” added Harrison.
Harrison had nothing but praise for his time as a coach at Cloudland and was thankful for the door that was opened to him at Elizabethton.
“I am going to miss those Cloudland kids and they made a great hire there with Tyler Chambers and I appreciate the administration through the whole process,” Harrison said.
“I would like to thank Mr. Van Huss and Dr. Minton and everyone that was involved in the decision here. They are extremely genuine people and like I have said the sky is the limit when you have good people in place and that is all I have seen so far is a great environment.”
For Blevins, the move could be compared to a baseball player that played several years as a pitcher and then was moved to the outfield before having to come back years later to pitch some innings of relief.
That player might be a little rusty from not pitching much, but with a few tosses, everything starts coming back.
After playing basketball and coaching some in his early career, Blevins has led the Ranger baseball team for the last few years but just being back around the court has helped to shake off some of the cobwebs and now he is ready to dive in to help in whatever way he can.
“This move is something that I and my wife have prayed about and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Blevins. “Its a little bit different but I grew up playing basketball and I played it throughout high school.
“I have been here about a month and have been picking up stuff really quickly being around Lucas, Barry, and Garry – three excellent coaches that I have picked up a lot from.”
Like Harrison, Blevins has young children just entering the education system and his wife, Katie Hubbard Blevins, was a former Cyclone softball standout at EHS as well.
“I am excited to be here and bring an outside look at how everything is going,” Blevins stated. “I played college baseball and have played baseball my entire life. Basketball was really my first love and then I got into baseball. It will be different, but being around kids is being around kids and that’s what I like to do to help them and teach them.”
Blevins has been a Ranger his entire life and making a move to the next classification that he is excited to experience from different aspects.
“Being at a small school at Unaka- I wouldn’t take anything away from being there because I grew up there but being at a larger school there are more athletes, more options, and more resources,” Blevins commented. “The competition is better because it comes with size. It’s different but it’s not because you still have to coach the kids.”
Stepping from the diamond to the hardwood will admittedly be a challenge for Blevins, but one that he hopes that can help Honeycutt and the Cyclones see things from a different perspective.
“I hope that I can bring my experience as a head coach because as being a baseball coach I might see things that they don’t see as far as basketball goes and just continue to learn more from these other coaches.”