Jonathan Shultz named Sevier County girls basketball coach
Jonathan Shultz never lost the desire to lead a basketball program after stepping away from the Pigeon Forge boys team less than a year ago.
It didn’t take long for the Gatlinburg-Pittman alum to get his second shot. Shultz is taking over the Sevier County girls program following a second stint as an assistant in Sevierville.
“I feel fortunate to go in and be a head coach again so soon,” Shultz said. “I knew once the season started I wanted to be a head coach for sure when the opportunity came. I’m excited. I feel like we’ve got a chance to have a really good year next year.”
Sevier County co-Athletic Director Bryan Atchley announced Shultz, who served as an assistant for the school’s boys and girls teams this year, as the choice to replace Stacy Marine on Thursday. Shultz earned the job from a pool of more than 40 applicants that Atchley said was hard to pare down.
“After seeing him coach here last year with our programs and knowing his days at Pigeon Forge, he has an unbelievable desire to work and wants to be a teacher of the game,” Atchley said. “We don’t want to be outworked. If you can get the kids to buy into that, it’s huge.”
Shultz was 66-107 in six years leading the Tigers before he resigned last May. He’s a 1998 graduate of Gatlinburg-Pittman who was an assistant under current Sevier County boys coach Ken Wright at G-P. He worked the boys and girls bench in Sevierville during the 2006-2007 season. He follows Marine, who stepped down in February to spend more time with his family.
Shultz played for Wright his junior and senior years where the coach said he was an effort guy, winning the team's 110-percent award. That attitude translated in his first head coaching gig up the Parkway.
"His teams always played hard and always competed," Wright said. "He's a very good X-and-O coach. He has the 'it' factor about him to be successful."
Shultz said he learned a lot from his time coaching in Pigeon Forge but the most important thing may be the new perspective he brings to this job. Losses were devastating to him his first year and Shultz said it took him a while to figure out that his career record is only part of the equation.
“I don’t do this job ultimately to win games,” Shultz said. “It’s about the lives that can be changed. That’s my motivation. … I love the game, love to compete. I know how much (Wright) affected me and I want to do the same.”
Expectations will be high for Shultz right away, with the Bearettes returning five starters including Brittany Tarr, who averaged a double-double this past season. The coach said he already had text messages from coaching friends joking about how high the bar is set. Sevier County won 18 games this winter, its highest total since 2011, before falling out of the District 2-AAA tournament in a loss to Morristown East on Valentine’s Day.
“It’s rare that you return all five starters off a team that had a winning record,” Shultz said. “There’s great potential for success. We can’t just assume that it’s going to happen; We have to make it happen.”
Tarr said Shultz was the candidate she and her teammates hoped would take the job. Shultz helped out a lot on defense last season under Marine she said and the senior is excited she doesn't have to start over getting to know a coach she's never met.
Tarr said the pieces are in place for a championship run and her new coach is focusing on the effort required to get there. Shultz told Atchley in his interview that he may not be the best coach who applied and probably didn't have the most wins. But he promised he would outwork everyone else. It’s something Atchley noticed this season when Shultz would coach as many as three games back-to-back-to-back.
“His enthusiasm at 5 o’clock was the same at 9 o’clock,” Atchley said. “His enthusiasm, work ethic never waned. He was out there coaching and getting after it, trying to get these kids better.”