Cleveland Community College President Jason Hurst bragged on Monday the success of the school’s growing sports programs was starting to attract a lot of attention.
When the school opened up applications for new head coaches for men’s and women’s basketball, as well as women’s volleyball, Hurst said the college received resumes from dozens of coaches, some with Division I experience.
In the end, the college chose to stay local, naming established coaches from three Cleveland County high school programs as new head coaches for the college.
“These guys are invested. They are local. They know the community, and they have a following. They have recruited, and we feel they have shown success with their local programs and that carries a lot of weight,” said Hurst.
Work is already underway to prepare the college for the new programs. Crews began working in June to tear out the college’s old gymnasium and replace it with one able to properly support college athletics.
Meet the coaches
After an 11-year stint at the helm of Kings Mountain High School’s men’s basketball program, Grayson Pierce has joined Cleveland Community College as its first men’s basketball coach.
“To be able to be the first ever men’s basketball coach at this college is a great opportunity. I’m humbled to be able to do it,” he said.
A native of Shelby and a graduate of Crest High School, Pierce has been coaching high school ball for the last 14 years. He started as the assistant varsity coach at Crest, then became head coach of Kings Mountain’s junior varsity squad for two years. He was promoted to the head coaching position in 2011.
Pierce led the Kings Mountain varsity squad to eight winning seasons in the last decade and made multiple trips to the second and third rounds of the 3A playoffs.
As a coach, Pierce said he always wanted to move up to college basketball. He said he could think of no better place than Shelby to take that leap.
“Every high school player’s dream is to go to the next level, and I think every coach has that desire whether they want to admit it or not. I’ve always wanted to advance myself and what better way to do it than right here in my home town,” said Pierce. “I go to church half a mile down the road. I went to school across the street. My mother’s house is three miles down the road. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
As head coach of the Yetis program, Pierce will have a chance to build a new team from the ground up. That work, he said, has already started.
After three standout seasons with the Golden Lions women’s basketball squad Ford “Scooter” Lawrence will look to carry over his successes to the Yetis brand.
“I talked to a lot of different coaches to help with the decision. My personal goal was to (coach) college one day. To be able to do that and stay home, not make some kind of massive move to do this, coaches told me I would be crazy not to do this,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence has been coaching for 10 years, the last three at Shelby High School. He led the team to a state championship in 2021. He is a three-time conference coach of the year, two-time district coach of the year and the 2021 North Carolina Associated Press Coach of the Year.
While he is sad to be walking away from Shelby, Lawrence will remain at the helm through the end of the 2022-23 season.
“I’ll get to see the girls who came in as ninth graders finish out with me,” he said. “Even though I love Shelby, I graduated from there and love it to death, life is all about growth, and I look at this as an opportunity to do something I’ve never done before.”
After 16 years leading the Crest volleyball team, Jamie Wilson is swapping her green and gold for the blue and green palette of Cleveland Community College.
The six-time Big South Coach of the Year was announced on Monday as the new head of the Yetis volleyball program.
Wilson has been coaching for 17 years, almost all of them at Crest. The chance to do something new, she said, was too much to pass up.
“I told my girls today this is going to be my last season. It’s bittersweet. There are girls who are sophomores, freshmen and juniors I won’t get to finish out with, but I told them today I’ve been in this gym since I was 23 years old. It is bittersweet, but this opportunity was too big to pass up,” she said. “You love coaching. I love pushing athletes to be the best they can be, and I think the Yetis will give me the chance to do that.”
Wilson will spend the next year recruiting students for the college’s first team. They will start competing in 2023.
“We want to be as competitive as possible. I come from a long tradition of winning, and I want to continue to win and bring that to the Yetis,” she said.
Last year, John Grigg was a pitching coach for a Yetis baseball team which finished second in the NJCAA baseball tournament.
Grigg was named head coach of Yetis baseball on Monday. He is replacing Tyler Dawson, who accepted a new coaching position this summer.
A graduate of Burns High School and Lenoir-Rhyne University, Grigg worked for the Forest City Owls in 2021 and Gem City Bison in Wyoming before coming back to Shelby this spring.
As the team’s new head man, Grigg said he hopes to improve upon that result next season.
“Its a dream of mine to become a head coach. To be able to do it here in my hometown makes it even more special. The group we had last year, those guys are returning, coaching staff included. It’s going to be something special,” he said. “When you finish runner up and get that close to getting to where you want to be, the next year you want to get there. That is where we are going to be. Everyone has big aspirations.”
Dustin George can be reached at 704-669-3337 or Dustin.George@ShelbyStar.com.