BAKER — After Brian Wagner stepped down as Baker School’s girls basketball coach earlier this year, principal Tom Shipp and athletic director Matt Brunson didn't have to go far to find a new coach.
The coach, in fact, was already in the building.
James Kerrell was tapped to replace Wagner last month and has already started working with his new team.
Dream come true
Kerrell — who brings a wealth of coaching experience in multiple sports — has assisted with the Gator volleyball team, and coached the boys soccer team and the middle school golf team since he arrived at Baker from Davidson Middle School two years ago.
While at Davidson, he coached both the boys and girls basketball teams.
Getting his first high school basketball job is a dream come true for Kerrell.
"It's very satisfying," he said. "I've been striving for a while to make the move into high school full time. It's been a goal of mine since I was in junior high school, probably, to be a high school basketball coach."
Shipp credited Kerrell with his work since arriving at Baker School.
"He's been real involved with our sports program," Shipp said. "He's done anything we asked him to do. He's been very interested in the basketball program since the very beginning.
"One of his primary things was he wanted to get involved in the basketball program. He's got a background himself in basketball, and it's just a sport he's always been involved with and very interested in."
Having an in-house coach made the decision to name Kerrell the girls coach easy, Brunson said.
"I think he's done a good job with our girls programs, helping with volleyball, and he's also had great success," Brunson said. "Coach Wagner has done a great job with our girls basketball program. At this time, he's ready to let that go, so the next coach in line would be coach Kerrell.
"Any time you have a position open, you look within your staff first for the most qualified person, and I think he fits that role."
Kerrell described himself as a defense-first coach.
"I stress defense a lot," he said. "I'll probably stress defense more than anything.
"If you play tough defense, you get easy turnovers. If you get turnovers, you get easy buckets — and that translates into wins.”
While he prefers an up-tempo style of play on offense, he'll match the style of play to his team’s athletes.
"I'm one of those coaches that is going to look ... at what athletes I have and adjust accordingly," he said. “I feel like I bring a pretty good amount of basketball knowledge. I've either played or coached for 20-plus years.
"I feel like I bring a fresh set of eyes on things and, hopefully, a little excitement and a little motivation for more kids to get out and enjoy the game I love."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.