GCHS hires boys basketball coach

GCHS Athletics
Jeff Williamson has been named the new head boys basketball coach at Garden City High School. Williamson is coming to Garden City from being a coach at Woodward, Okla.

The Garden City High School boys’ basketball program will have a new coach after the USD 457 Board of Education gave its stamp of approval at the Monday night Board of Education meeting on Athletic Director Drew Thon's recommendation. 

Hired to guide the Buffs program for 2021-22 is Jeff Williamson, currently the boys' basketball coach at Woodward, Okla., where he has served in that position for the past three seasons.

Williamson took over the Boomers program for the 2018-19 program and inherited a team that had not had a winning season in five years. His first Woodward team went 10-14, but in 2019-20 they improved to 16- 10, and then in the just-completed season, the Boomers went 22-4.

The Buffs' opening became available after Jacy Holloway resigned from the position on March 6 after serving in that position for the past 11 seasons.

"I'm excited about the possibilities at Garden," Williamson said in a recent telephone interview. "They have great facilities, and with one of the largest enrollments in Kansas, I hope to draw from the student body and create that interest in basketball."

After the 2020-21 season concluded, Williamson was selected as a finalist for Oklahoma Coach of the Year and voted the Region I Boys Basketball Coach of the Year. The region covers northwest Oklahoma and includes 97 schools, and the coaches of all those schools conduct the voting. After the 2019-20 season, he was voted All-State Coach of the Year for larger schools and was the West Team coach in the summer Oklahoma East-West All-State Game.

Williamson brings a wide breadth of experience to the position, having coached at the NAIA and NCAA Division II and the high school level. Before his tenure at Woodward, Williamson was an assistant boys coach at his high school alma mater of Logan, West Virginia, for three seasons. In the 2014-15 season, he was the head boys’ basketball coach at Tamassee-Salem High School in Salem, South Carolina.

He has also had experience coaching at the collegiate level, serving as an assistant coach at West Virginia University Tech (NAIA Div. I), Salem University (W. Va.) (NCAA Div. II), University of Rio Grande (Rio Grande, Ohio; NAIA Div. I).

A 2005 graduate of Logan High School in Logan, West Va., Williamson then received a B.S. degree in Physical Education from Salem University in Salem, West Va. in 2010. In 2011, he added a B.S. degree in Secondary Education/Health Education and Salem University. During his college years, he also served as an assistant boys’ basketball coach at Logan High School. He was a student assistant to the men's basketball coach at Salem University and was a student manager for the West Virginia University women's basketball program for the 2008 year.

His teaching experience includes First Responder instructor, First-Aid and Safety, Health, Life Skills, Physical Education; Educating Youth on Healthy Living Lifestyles; and Dance.

Drew Thon, Athletics/Activities Director at Garden City High School, said the search committee, comprised of seven members, interviewed five finalists for the job. In the end Garden City High School Principal Steve Nordby and AD Drew Thon chose Williamson. 

"We are excited to welcome Coach Williamson to Garden City! Coach Williamson's drive, work ethic, and vision match our athletic department, school, and district values perfectly. We can't wait for Coach Williamson to step on campus and put his fingerprint on the basketball culture here in Garden City. The administration here at Garden City High School are delighted to once again attract such qualified talent to our already exceptional teaching and coaching staff."

Williamson said it is always important when a coach takes on a new position that everyone is on the right page, and he discovered that at Woodward.

"Even though they had been losing, the kids had a thirst for wanting to win," Williamson said. "First, you have to have a buy-in. Second, the kids must understand their role and then accept that role. Third, they have to embrace the role along with the other players, too."

An advocate of an up-tempo, pressure defense philosophy, Williamson said he likes to put as many players on the floor during a game as possible.

"It's a little bit like chaotic pressure, and I like to play a lot of players," Williamson said. "It's based on our style of play."

Williamson said he was grateful for the opportunity he had at Woodward, citing the townspeople, administration, and players.

"They were great and did everything for me, so it will be tough to leave, but I also love the opportunity of a new challenge," Williamson said. "With everything that has gone on during the past year (COVID), kids need to get back to having fun because sometimes everything comes to a screeching halt, and they lose passion for playing."

Williamson, who has worked with youth basketball at all age levels, said it was important to get players interested in spending a lot of time in the gym.

"The more time in the gym, the better the skills become," he said. "Give positive reinforcement in the youth, and that will eventually translate into wins at the higher level. I've been in positions to develop kids, and when I look at and then touch each area, that's the key to having them ready to play at the high school level."

One of the more meaningful projects in which he was a founder and advocate followed his father's death due to cancer.

Williamson founded the "Project Hoopie, Inc.," a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization in West Virginia. Established as a charitable organization to give back to cancer research but also to provide free basketball camps to youths, Project Hoopie has served more than 3,000 free meals, provided more than 1,100 free basketballs, 1,100 free backpacks, instructed more than 1,000 campers, all while providing free tuition to the camps. He has raised approximately $50,000 for the charity.

Williamson said his current contract with Woodward's school district ends June 1 and that he would arrive in Garden City sometime that first week of June to begin his new duties. He plans on meeting with the Buffaloes' basketball team sometime next week.