By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
When the Nabors brothers —Gene and Brian — were replaced at Woodrow Wilson earlier this year by former Shady Spring Middle School coach Ronnie Olsen, there were a lot of people left scratching their heads.
There’s bound to be even more now.
Just a little more than two months away from the start of the high school basketball season, Olsen has resigned as an assistant coach on Ron Kidd’s Flying Eagle staff, to take the same position at cross county rival Shady Spring, joining coach Steve Clark’s staff.
“The board office had decided to equalize the coaches,” Clark said. “We were down a coach, so we posted the job and Ronnie applied. Olsen’s a Shady Spring guy. He coached at the middle school for several years, and we’re lucky to have him.”
Olsen was successful at the middle school level. He brought a county championship home for the Tigers earlier this year.
“Ya know, I thought about it,” Olsen said of taking the job at Shady. “It was a tough decision, because, let’s face it, Woodrow is Woodrow. But I eventually want to be a head coach. That’s my ultimate personal goal. I knew my role for Shady would be bigger and that would help a lot. Coach (Clark) is excited to have me, and we discussed some things.”
The excitement was easily heard in the Tigers’ head coach.
“We always felt like he did a good job at the middle school,” Clark said. “He’s got good fundamentals. He’s a good motivator. He’s a really good fit for us.”
The move will reunite Olsen with a core of players from his eight years at Shady Middle.
“I know the kids are excited — I’m excited,” Olsen added. “I think we can make some noise. I’m an assistant coach, but Coach Clark knows my strengths. He’s going to let me do what I’m good at and have a lot of a hand at what goes on.”
One word to describe Olsen? Optimistic.
“I know that people are going to look and say, ‘Why would he leave Woodrow and go to Shady?’” he said. “But I’m from Florida originally. I’m not a Woodrow guy. It’s about my kids. I want to move up eventually, and I thought Shady would be the better place to be.
“I think, maybe I’m naive, maybe it’s how I play and I coach, but I think we can compete, also,” Olsen added. “Even without Chase Connor and those guys. We have a core group of guys that won a county championship against those same kids going to Woodrow and we beat them handily. I have no doubt in my mind with the right coach and right offseason that we can compete for a state title.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Olsen has competed for a state title. He was part of an Independence team that made waves in Charleston, before losing in the championship game to Magnolia.
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The move comes after a review by the Raleigh County Board of Education of the coaching situation in the county. Shady Spring was given one more assistant coach, to join Clark and assistant David Shaw, while Woodrow had one position eliminated.
The Flying Eagles now will have only a short amount of time to replace Olsen.
“A comprehensive review of the number of coaching positions by program at each high school was conducted to ensure equity in number based on student enrollment,” James G. Brown, Raleigh County Schools Superintendent said in an e-mail. “As a result of the review, a decision was made to eliminate the third assistant coaching position at Woodrow Wilson High School.
“When the review was done, we compared each school based on the number of students and coaching positions as they were assigned with the original intent of the board,” Brown said in a phone interview. “What we found was that, over time, Woodrow had a freshman basketball program and that coaching position was posted as an assistant coach. That was not the original intent. Woodrow had one more assistant than was originally indicated.”
Brown did suggest that it would be possible for Woodrow to gain back a fourth coach in the future.
“There’s not a freshman coaching job at this time,” Brown said. “That’s by design of the students that come out for the program. If they can fill a JV, varsity and freshman team in the future, the board will review an additional coach.”