Portland High didn’t waste much time finding a new head boys basketball coach.
Having ties to the community didn’t hurt Josh Epperson’s cause, as the 35-year-old has been hired to be the Panthers’ new coach.
“This is a move that is entirely family oriented,” Epperson said. “We have a 3-year-old and 1-year-old. When we took the job in Lenoir City, my parents were an hour and a half away. They now live in Kansas. My wife’s family is from Portland, parents and cousins and everybody. It’s about the support structure you need as a coach when you have a family.”
Epperson replaces Chris Carney, who left to take the opening at Wilson Central two weeks ago.
“I got on the horn pretty quick,” Portland High principal David Woods said. “I’ve got a lot of basketball contacts, so I had several people searching. But we had a pretty good short list for this time of year.”
Epperson spent the last four seasons at Lenoir City – the first two with the girls program and the past two years with the boys team. Lenoir City’s boys went 27-32 under Epperson, including a Region 2-AAA Tournament appearance in 2014-15.
Woods said Epperson has a long-term plan for bringing the Panther program forward.
“He knows District 9-AAA is a tough district for us and we’re having a hard time,” Woods said. “He’s talking about getting out and maybe start having some fourth- and fifth-grade teams in our elementary schools and let some of our guys coach them … Portland City Parks really doesn’t have much of a league, because it was taken over by Upward and there’s not a lot going on.”
Epperson is in the process of relocating to Portland. He is expected to meet with the team for the first time on Saturday at Corey Brewer’s annual basketball camp.
“He understands that it needs to be built from the ground up,” Woods said. “I just like the fact that he knows what he’s faced with. And he’s going to be here. He’s going to be vested in the community. He’s bringing his girls back and his wife’s coming back.”
Portland finished 6-23 last season and lost three seniors to graduation – leading scorer Caelum Utley, small forward Jay Crutchfield and shooting guard Eric Kirk. The Panthers return three junior guards – Luke Jones, Bryce Keith and Dawson Simmons – who gained considerable experience, along with sophomore guard Austin Hicks and junior forward Grant Cook.
“This was not a basketball move first, but make no mistake, we’ll rebuild it from the ground up,” Epperson said. “This is going to be a long process, but that’s okay.”
The Knoxville News Sentinel’s Chris Thomas contributed to this report. Reach Chris Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 615-575-7118. Follow him on Twitter @CB_SumnerSports.