South’s Brooks moves on
By Mike London
LANDIS ó A game last winter told South Rowan girls basketball coach Jim Brooks he could move on feeling satisfied with the job he’d done.
Lake Norman was 15-3 when it came to the South gym on Jan. 30. The Raiders lost all-county guard Nikki Graham to a torn ACL very early, but they erased a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win.
Seniors Taylor May and Molly Garrett drilled huge shots. Sophomore Sam Goins scored nine points in the last 2 minutes, 22 seconds.
South hadn’t beaten anyone as good as Lake Norman in a very long time. Brooks took it all in silently, finding himself somewhere between laughing, yelling, dancing and crying.
“I decided that was a time as a coach when you just sit down, shut your mouth and let your kids play,” Brooks said. “Those last few minutes showed glimpses of what those girls could do. Sam’s going to come into her own next season.”
Brooks stepped down recently with lots of solid work and positive numbers in the books. His won-lost records improved each of his four seasons. Few can say that.
At least one NPC rival, West Rowan’s Erich Epps, felt Brooks deserved every coaching accolade for his final season.
“Look at the number of games he won and look at what he had,” Epps said. “Jim Brooks did an unbelievable job.”
That he did.
Four years ago, no one envisioned South beating 15-3 teams or winning 15 times. South had lost 31 of 32 outings when Brooks was named head coach prior to the 2005-06 season.
Seniors Tiffany Thomas and Adrianné Alexander anchored his first team, which turned in a modest 7-17 record and won four of its 12 games in the 4A CPC.Brooks knew Thomas, a 1,000-point scorer, was good. He didn’t realize how good until teams pressed the Raiders into the hardwood after she graduated.
But the tall girls ó May, Katie Wise, Katherine Van Wieren and Kim Wilson ó grew up quickly.
South won eight times in 2006-07 and qualified for the 4A playoffs as a wild-card team.
South returned to the 3A NPC in 2007-08, went 13-13 overall, made the playoffs and put together its first winning league record since 2002.
This season, the Raiders took another step forward. They were 15-12 and had the most conference wins (11) by the program since 1992.
“We were lucky enough to do a little better every year,” Brooks said.
The cupboard isn’t bare for next season. South will miss May, Graham and the other seniors, but Goins, starter Kayla Morrow and key sub Libby Sides will be back. The jayvees were pretty good.
“It was my decision, and it’s a good time to step aside,” Brooks said. “I had to ask myself if I was giving up enough time to the team. I also had to ask myself if I was giving up enough time to my own family. Sometimes you’re in a place where you wonder if you’re doing anybody justice.”
NPC basketball quadrupleheaders often end late. Brooks usually got home at 11 p.m. He has two children of his own ó a third-grader and a high school sophomore ó and as much joy as he took from things such as May scoring her 1,000th point, he wondered if he was short-changing his own blood.
Through it all, he kept a ready sense of humor. He always had his wife read the paper first the day after a game. He always feared he’d said something “really stupid” to a reporter in the heat of the moment after a tough loss.
The South job was Brooks’ first try coaching girls after dealing with boys for years.
“Not saying it was worse or better, but girls are definitely different,” Brooks said with a laugh. “Yeah, there were times we played bad, but all things considered, I enjoyed all of it. I hope in some small way I helped the kids. We had a lot of good ones.”
South may stay in-house as far as replacing Brooks. He’s given his suggestions to administrators.
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