High school basketball: Salisbury seeks new boys basketball coach

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 25, 2023


By Mike London

SALISBURY — Bryan Withers resigned recently as Salisbury’s boys basketball coach.

The Hornets have actively been advertising on social media for a new commander to take the reins of a pretty elite 2A program. The structure is in place to be good for quite a while.

Three short months ago, Withers was racking up coach of the year awards — his fourth for the county and his second for the Central Carolina Conference — but things can change quickly in high school sports.

Withers requested to go out as quietly as Mike Gurley did at West Rowan. He didn’t want to bash anyone or leave with negative words. He didn’t want to diminish what has been a positive run with the Hornets.

He’s in his early 50s, so he may resurface down the road. He could have good coaching days left in him.

Withers was a Salisbury High guy through and through. He played for coach Sam Gealy in serious glory days. the back-to-back 30-2 seasons. He was Rowan County Player of the Year as a junior in 1986-87 when the Hornets won a state championship.

He played college hoops for the UNC Wilmington Seahawks, started games and played four seasons in the Colonial Athletic Association. In 1990-91, he averaged 9.7 points on 57 percent shooting and added 4.5 rebounds per game.

His degree is in business management.

He entered the business world after college — working for department stores, newspapers, banks and FedEx.

In 2002, he returned to Salisbury, working at Salisbury High, and then Henderson Independent School. He was an assistant coach for the Hornets in football and basketball.

In August 2007, he went to work at South Rowan where he was an assistant coach in track and field, football and basketball.

He became head basketball coach of the Raiders in 2012.

He served as head coach for three seasons with records of 11-14, 9-15, 7-16. The consensus was that he did very well with the hand he was dealt, and Withers relished competing in an underdog role. He enjoyed his time at South, guided some “run through a wall” over-achievers and learned to coach.

There was a night in the 2014 Sam Moir Christmas Classic that No. 8 seed South beat No. 1 seed Salisbury in the first round.

Withers made the move back to Salisbury in the summer of 2015 and had worked there for nearly eight years when he resigned.

His eight basketball seasons at Salisbury — all winning seasons — included records of 18-5, 15-8, 27-4, 17-10, 17-9, 8-5, 20-5 and 22-6.

The 8-5, of course, was the COVID-delayed season. The Hornets were regional finalists in that 27-4 season, losing a whale of a game in Greensboro to the Forest Hills squad that would go on to win the 2A state title.

Withers finished 144-52 at Salisbury, a .735 winning percentage.

There were conference regular-season championships or co-championships in 2017-18, 2021-22 and 2022-23. Salisbury won the last two CCC tournaments.

Salisbury was a regular in the Christmas tournament finals. There was a stretch of three straight runner-up finishes for the Hornets under Withers with title-game losses to Carson and A.L. Brown that went down to the wire. The Hornets were headed back to the finals in 2021, but that was the tournament that was halted by a shooting incident.

Overall, Withers is 171-97 as a varsity head coach. He’s ninth on the all-time county wins list for Rowan County boys basketball.

In the gym and beyond it, he used his life experiences and coaching experiences to make a difference in the lives of many young athletes.

Salisbury, assuming everyone returns, will be ranked in the top 5 in 2A in preseason polls in November.

Who will be coaching the Hornets is the big question at the moment.