“Excited and blessed,” Church said after being hired by the Norton City School Board as the new boys basketball coach at J.I. Burton.
“It’s an opportunity to take over a strong program. I know as a young coach it’s not every day that you have an opportunity like this,” said the 26-year-old Church.
He replaces Aaron Williams, who resigned earlier this year and accepted the Abingdon boys basketball coaching spot after 10 years at Burton.
READY TO WORK
Church, who has worked as an assistant coach since he was in college, was the head coach of the Lee High girls basketball program last season.
The Lady Generals finished 5-17 in Church’s one-year tenure in the always-tough Mountain 7 District.
“The Mountain 7 is the gauntlet of girls basketball in the state,” Church said.
The Lady Generals, which were winless the year before Church took over the program, started last season rough but improved as the season went along.
This season, Church inherits another program, but it’s nearly the polar opposite of what he walked into at Lee High last season.
Burton’s boys are coming off a 22-8 season that included a Region 1D championship and a trip to the VHSL Class 1 state semifinals in Williams’ last year.
Three starters from last season’s team — Mikey Culbertson, Trevor Culbertson and Zach Campbell — are expected to return for the winter season.
The Raiders also have some key reserve players from last year’s squad back for this season, while Church will have key players up from a junior varsity team that won the Cumberland District championship last season while going undefeated.
“I’ll be going into a good situation,” said Church. “It’s not a rebuild, it’s a reload.
“There’s a lot of talent, and there’s a strong basketball tradition at Burton, and I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
Church played on the last basketball team in J.J. Kelly history before the school was consolidated with Pound to form Wise Central.
During that 2010-11 season, the Indians, under the direction of current Central coach T.J. McAmis, won the Lonesome Pine District championship and advanced to Region D tournament play on the strength of a 21-game winning streak.
Church went to college at UVa-Wise.
During his collegiate tenure, he coached three years as an assistant at Wise Central.
After that, he was an assistant coach at Union in various sports for a couple of years before accepting the girls basketball position at Lee High.