SEVEN SPRINGS — A new path has revealed itself.
Adventure and opportunity awaits Taylor Jones, who is ready to pen the next chapter of his basketball coaching career.
Jones resigned last week after 12 seasons at Spring Creek. A Duplin County native, he’ll take over the varsity boys’ program at James Kenan and teach math.
Prayer and family fueled Jones’ decision.
“I just felt like the time was right with my family and the situation I’m in with my son [Bennett] getting ready to start school,” Jones said. “It was hard…a family decision about getting closer to home and being around family a lot more.
“Having that support system as he gets a little bit older, that’s what it’s about for us. [This] fell into place at the right time.”
The fourth coach in Gators’ history, Jones amassed 135 victories.
Wins, losses and diagramming X’s and O’s on a whiteboard during timeouts didn’t hold significant importance to Jones.
His program goals: build a culture, organization, believe in hard work, practice and play with enthusiasm and coach to the best of his ability. The ultimate reward was setting up his young men to be successful later in their lives, he said.
Not surprisingly, Jones needed a few seasons to establish his philosophy. He devised game plans based on his personnel and logged his first winning campaign in 2011-12.
Over the next six years, the Gators compiled 66 victories and shared a pair of Carolina 1A regular-season titles — ironically with James Kenan — in 2014-15 and 2016-17.
In all, Jones guided seven teams to the postseason.
“Some of my best memories will be at Spring Creek…the people, my best friends and great people that I’ve worked with and worked for,” Jones said. “My goal has always been to leave something better than the way you found it. I found Spring Creek in a good spot, but I feel like we’ve set up the program to be successful moving forward as far as the things we’ve built and put in place.
“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done.”
James Kenan’s community may eat, sleep, breathe and live football, but it’s also had a proud tradition in basketball.
The Tigers have logged eight winning seasons in the past decade. That run includes four campaigns of 16-plus wins, four regular-season championships and nine top-three finishes in league play.
Due to school closures in mid-March from the COVID-19 outbreak, players haven’t been able to attend offseason workouts. Social distancing guidelines imposed by Gov. Roy Cooper forced the postponement of summer camps.
Jones anticipates a challenge, but is also familiar with the Tigers since they have been his team’s competitors in the East Central 2A Conference.
“I’ll coach to the best of my ability,” he said. “I feel like they’re in a good place, too, so it’s not like I’m going into something where I have to start all over again. I’ll just try to be who I am and allow the kids to be who they are and find a happy medium.
“Let’s work together and see if we can make this into something great. That’s the goal. We’ll do the best we can.”