Same school. New team.
Jonathan Tharpe is trading one basketball team for another at Newton-Conover.
He stepped down as the girls basketball coach to lead the boys basketball team.
Tharpe replaces Mark Carter, who is retiring from coaching and teaching at the school.
“For anyone to come back to their alma mater and have an opportunity to coach, I had an aspiration for that,” said Tharpe, a 2000 graduate of NCHS. “I never really saw myself with the boys program though because of being with the girls and what we have done. This opportunity happened to open up. I took a while to think about everything, and I decided to try it and see what happens.”
The Lady Red Devils had much success under Tharpe, including two straight appearances in Greensboro at the Western Regional title game the past two seasons. Tharpe's teams averaged 24 wins per season.
With three years under his belt as a head basketball coach at the school, he believes the transition will be much smoother than if he were to leave for another school.
“I know the teachers, kids and parents, and I’ve seen the kids come up through middle school,” said Tharpe, who is a fifth-grade teacher at Thornton Elementary, and coaches golf at Newton-Conover Middle School. “The transition, as far as them knowing me and me knowing who they are will be pretty smooth. The boys already know who I am and they know what I’ve done with the girls program. Hopefully, they’ll see that my commitment to the girls program will be the same now with the boys program.”
Word has already gotten out about Tharpe’s hiring as boys basketball coach. Many players have already approached him and said they look forward to working with him.
“I’ve seen a few of the boys in the hallways,” Tharpe said. “They are excited. They are waiting on the summer things we have planned. That was one of the first things one of them asked me. They wanted to know if we were doing anything this summer. I told them, ‘Of course, we are.’ They are excited and I’m excited about it.”
In that summer preparation and transition, Tharpe has a thorough plan he wants to see carried out.
“We’ve got to have commitment to the JV and varsity programs with kids coming out this summer to our camps, open gyms, and skill development sessions, so we can get better,” Tharpe said. “That is the first step. I think the second step is just continuing for everyone to get stronger and work together. These are kids that play a lot of basketball together.”
Although he said the decision to leave the Lady Red Devils was hard, Tharpe aims to stay close with his former players and try to build camaraderie among both programs.
“When we talked as a team about everything and I told the girls my decision, I told them I will always be there for them on and off the floor,” Tharpe said. “I will continue to check in on them and their grades. If they want to get into the gym and it is alright with the new girls coach, I’ll help out whoever wants to be in there. I will continue to help them as much as I can without interfering with the new coach. I think that if we all work together, everyone will come out successful in the end.”