July 12, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Drew McBrayer admits he dreamed of one day becoming the boys basketball coach at New Hope High School.
He never imagined that day would come so soon.
The Lowndes County School Board on Friday approved the hiring of McBrayer as New Hope High''s boys basketball coach.
McBrayer, 30, replaces Robert Byrd, who announced his resignation Tuesday after 11 years as the school''s head coach.
"It always was a dream to be a head coach again, and I had looked at other options, but they didn''t work out for my family," McBrayer said. "(The New Hope Hope High boys basketball job) always has been a job I wanted, but I didn''t think it would happen this soon. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would happen this soon."
Byrd said Tuesday he was stepping down as the school''s boys basketball coach to spend more time with his wife and four children and to pursue a master''s degree at the Mississippi University for Women.
McBrayer, who has spent six of the past eight years as a coach with the New Hope High boys basketball program, said he hates to see Byrd get out of coaching, but he knows he has bigger things he is worried about right now than the basketball team. He said his job will be to maintain the tradition Byrd helped build.
Byrd won more than 250 games in 11 seasons as head coach and led the Trojans to a state runner-up finish in 2007 and a Class 4A state title in 2008.
"He has left (the program) in pretty good shape," McBrayer said. "I hate to see him go because I feel he is one of the better coaches in the state, and he always will be an asset to the community. I always want this community to do well. We''re still going to have to work hard, and we''ll do everything we can to continue the success he built."
McBrayer played basketball and baseball at New Hope High, and graduated from the school in 1997. He went to East Mississippi Community College on a basketball scholarship and played men''s basketball and men''s golf.
He then moved on to Mississippi State, where he initially intended to pursue a degree that would have helped him earn a job as a professional who runs a golf pro shop, but he changed his mind and earned a degree in physical education.
At the time, McBrayer was helping Byrd and the New Hope High boys basketball team as a volunteer assistant coach. He did that for three years before he took a job as the head boys and girls basketball coach at St. Aloysius High School in Vicksburg.
McBrayer had a combined record of 70-47 in two seasons as coach of the teams. He led the squads to the South Half state tournament both seasons.
He returned to New Hope to join Byrd as an assistant coach, and jumped at the chance to take over the New Hope High program despite the recent coaching turnover at the school.
McBrayer said it is even more special for him to take over the program because his wife, Holli, also graduated from New Hope High in 1997.
The McBrayers have two children: Madyson, 4, and Lexi, 15 months.
"This is a great situation for my family because my family is from here and (Holli''s) is from here," McBrayer said. "This is a good school for our kids to grow up in. But with what has happened to coach Hester and now with coach Byrd''s resignation, it makes you kind of skeptical what is going on. I have been through the whole process with all of them being in the school. It is hard to comment on it because there really is no certainty either way to what goes on."
McBrayer played baseball for Hester from 1995-97. Hester ''s at-will contract as the school''s baseball coach was non-renewed. He won 551 games and three state titles in 18 years as the school''s coach.
In addition to Hester, girls basketball coach Tim Vaughan (to Columbus High) and boys soccer and girls track and field coach Jamie Perkins (to Oxford High) have left New Hope High since the end of the school year.
McBrayer, who is the brother in law of New New Hope High baseball coach Lee Boyd, said it has been a "weird week for his family." He said he would continue in his job as a physical education teacher at New Hope High. He believes his ties to the community will make his transition to the head coach''s chair at the end of the bench easier.
"I am not going to be a lot different than what Robert was," McBrayer said. "He built this program and turned it into a very successful program. My coaching style is not much different than his. We preach very strong defense and execution on offense.
"As far as my coaching style, I guess you could say I might be a little more laid back than he is when it comes to intensity. He is about as intense as they come when it comes to the game."
McBrayer admitted Byrd''s intensity level might only be "half a step" higher than his.
"He has prepared me well over the years by what he has done," McBrayer said.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.