DUDLEY — A sweet-shooting guard who possessed an uncanny court vision during his playing days, Brian West is right where he belongs — at Southern Wayne High School.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
A diverse committee interviewed 35 applicants and selected West, a 2003 alum, to restore the foundation of a tradition-rich and proud varsity boys’ basketball program at his alma mater.
“I am honored and blessed to be in this position,” said West with his family by his side as he addressed a small gathering outside the spanking new SW gymnasium unveiled last December.
“I want to first thank God for positioning my purpose. I also want to thank my family for introducing me to the game of basketball, for being my strength and motivation over the years. Specifically, I want to acknowledge and thank my older brother, Marlo West, for all of the days he spent talking, teaching and instilling his love for basketball into me – helped me grow so much as a man and athlete.
“May he rest in peace.”
A native of Mount Olive, West succeeds Dwight Smith, who resigned as head coach during the winter. The Saints filed an 0-13 ledger in a season that included numerous stoppages due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
Five seniors graduate.
West intends to instill accountability inside and outside the classroom. He expects to see his players display individual growth, development, resilience and encourage their teammates.
“To me, focusing on building strong, resilient men will be the starting point for redefining what it means to be a Southern Wayne basketball player,” West said. “This is how I want to give back to this community and the young men of Southern Wayne High School.”
Smith guided the Saints to 56 wins and two playoff appearances in seven seasons on the bench.
Prior to his arrival, Southern Wayne claimed Eastern Carolina 3A regular-season titles in 2010 and 2011, and finished league runner-up in 2012 and 2013. The Saints secured six postseason trips and compiled 76 wins from 2008-13.
Cody Rose has been named assistant head coach.
“The southern part of the county holds a place near and dear to my heart. This is home,” said Rose, who has taught at SW for 11 years. “I will continue to do my best to support this staff’s desire to prepare students for the demands of high school and life after high school.”
He and West share the “together” mentality.
They also know the program cannot be repaired overnight.
“This is a two- to three-year process,” West said. “The wins will come if we build a solid foundation focused on building strong, resilient men of character.”
Embraced by the community as a player and educator, West’s no-nonsense approach to academics and stern standing on team discipline impressed the interview committee, particularly SW Principal Kevin Smith.
“What the interview committee realized was that everything they looked for stood right in front of them,” Smith said. “Brian West represents everything we tell our students at Southern Wayne every single day. If it’s in your mind, it’s what you want, all you’ve got to do is get to work and take the time to make it happen.
“That’s Bryan West.”
Southern Wayne has been realigned into the new Quad County 3A Conference that spans four counties - Wayne, Wilson, Johnston and Wake. Competition begins this fall.
The new league, a fresh face in the coaching huddle and the rebranding of the program should help revitalize the Saints, who are eager to return to the “conference contender” conversation amongst their peers.