The Chapel Hill High boy’s basketball team is introducing a new head coach in the form of Bill Walton. No, he’s not the legendary player from UCLA and the NBA, but this Walton is a 28-year veteran of the game.
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Coach Walton, however, recalls a memorable conversation concerning his more famous namesake.
“I reached out to his folks and I said, ‘This is Coach Bill Walton.’ She was like, ‘Really? Coach Bill Walton?’ I said, ‘Really’. She said, ‘Wow. I don’t know about him going over there now. I didn’t know Coach Bill Walton was there at Grimsley.’ I said, ‘Ma’am, I’m not the seven-footer. I’ve got a tan,” Coach Walton says.
But all jokes aside, this Coach Walton is a Virginia boy who grew up in Roanoke and later attended James Madison University. It didn’t take long for Walton to make his way down to North Carolina where he took a job as assistant coach at Greensboro Grimsley in 1989.
In 1992, Walton says a firestorm broke out involving the head coach and a black student in a P.E. class. But Walton is proud of how the team responded from the incident.
“He was accused of choking and assaulting a kid in his P.E. class. He happened to be black. You can only imagine in a city like Greensboro – all the complexities of that case. It was a trying time for everybody. I got the team and community together and had a terrific season,” Coach Walton says.
That was how Walton first assumed a head coaching position. He stayed at Grimsley until 2002, spent a few years at Southwest Guilford and then wound up at Reidsville High, located in the hometown of his wife, where he went 145-72 including a 26-4 season and a run to the NCHSAA 2A East Region Finals in 2012.
For health reasons, citing tension headaches, Coach Walton says he was advised to step aside by the Reidsville principal. He reluctantly obliged, but says he is not taking any medications for the headaches.
“When you’ve been around as long as I have, you just stick with it. You tell your kids that. You finish what you start. I talked about it with my family. I didn’t want to be a distraction to the kids. So reluctantly, I stepped aside,” Coach Walton says.
Coach Walton says the Chapel Hill job was at the top of his prospect list due to the attractive community and the plethora of basketball camps and facilities located in the region known nationwide for its high level basketball at all levels.
Former Chapel Hill High head coach Lason Perkins was surprisingly let go from his interim position. It was an unpopular decision by many players and assistant coaches.
Coach Walton says he understands the situation, empathizes with Coach Perkins and his staff, but is ready to do his job.
“I have no idea what happened in the process. There was an opening. I applied, interviewed and was offered the job,” Coach Walton says.
In addition, Coach Walton says he’s been reaching out to members of the previous staff to forge friendly relationships.
When asked about the added pressures and expectations of the Chapel Hill job, Coach Walton says he relishes the opportunity ahead and thrives in those situations. In fact, he says he expects a breakout season next year.
“Looking at the roster and the people coming back, I’m looking forward to a really good year – perhaps maybe the best year they’ve had here in five or six years,” Coach Walton says.
And for Tar Heel fans, there’s another perk to having Coach Walton in town stalking the sidelines for the Tigers. He says he plays Carolina-style basketball.
“We’re a lot like Carolina. We run Carolina fast break and we try to diagonally kick the ball up just like you see them do. We do that very well. That’s something we did very well at all the schools I’ve been at. We run the Carolina secondary break – both phases of it. We come to the floor and we’re running ‘Carolina’,” Coach Walton says.
It looks like Coach Walton has come to the right place. If he ever needs any advice on running the “Carolina”, UNC Head Coach Roy Williams will be just down the street.