Hilltoppers, Warriors introduce new head basketball coaches | WJHL

(WJHL) – Both Science Hill and Happy Valley officially announced their new boys basketball coaches on Friday afternoon.

In Johnson City, Jon Higgins will take over the Toppers’ program beginning this season. Athletic Director Keith Turner and his staff immediately began a nationwide search for a coach upon Ken Cutlip’s resignation in July.

However, it was clear to all those involved in the hiring process that Higgins was the right man for the job.

“Our team set down and started looking at the qualities that we wanted to take our basketball program into the future,” Turner said. “Coach Higgins’ name was at the top right away.”

Higgins has never called Johnson City home before, but the school’s storied past convinced him to make the move.

“When you look around the state and you look at what schools have to offer in terms of facility, in terms of tradition and community support – the ability to build and grow a program that’s better than any program around – Science Hill jumps up to the top of that list pretty quickly,” Higgins said. “So, just to have the opportunity to come out here and to be the head coach here is an honor. For them to choose me to be the head coach here is a blessing.”

Higgins has been a coach for more than a decade, but most recently spent time as the head coach a Farragut High School in Knoxville. Serving in that role since 2017, Higgins molded the program into strong contenders in the region.

The Admirals finished the 2021-22 season with a record of 25-9 and a district title. Higgins was also named District 4-4A Coach of the Year.

Prior to his coaching career, Higgins played basketball for the Tennessee Volunteers from 1999-2003, followed by an international professional career. He soon realized, however, his career in basketball was far from over.

“My passion is coaching, my passion is kids,” Higgins said. “I came back from overseas, I was working in a different industry and I realized wanted to coach and I really wanted to teach and I’ve been lucky enough to do that for the last 13 years.”

Higgins understands that succeeding the program’s all-time winningest coach will be no easy task, but it’s a challenge he plans to attack head-on.

“They are big shoes to fill, but we’re going to get after it,” he said. “You know, if you watch my teams play over the last ten years, they play extremely hard and compete against anybody. Whether or not we have as much talent as the next guy, we’re going to compete – and it’s going to be a hard game for whomever.”

Down the road in Elizabethton, a former Hilltopper was introduced as the next head coach at Happy Valley. Shane Williams was welcomed to the Warrior family with thunderous applause from students, coaches and community members.

As a former head coach at Tri-Cities Christian back in 2020, Williams says he’s ready to be back on the bench at one of the more historically successful basketball programs in the state.

Legendary head coach, Charlie Bayless, led the Warriors to a pair of state championships in 1950 and 1974.

Williams hopes his tenure will be about “waking a sleeping giant” and helping to return the program to its former glory.

“It’s all-time winningest traditions,” he said. “You have one of the all-time winningest coaches in the state here, a historic gym – it was hard to pass up the opportunity to come on and continue what Happy Valley has done and try and build on it and make it better than it was when I got here.”

“So far it’s a process, and if we do it the right way everything will work,” he continued. “Get the kids playing hard and believe in their self and that’s my job as the leader of the program – I just can’t wait to get started.”


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