STARKVILLE — It didn”t take long for Starkville Academy to find a boys basketball coach to replace Clay Stringer as Harrison Central assistant Chris Lyle was named head coach Friday afternoon.
After meeting with athletics director Glenn Schmidt on Wednesday, Lyle accepted the job last night and will begin his first head coaching position just four years into the profession.
He replaces Stringer, who accepted the principal position at Hillcrest Christian.
A Mississippi State grad and former pitcher at Pearl River Community College, Lyle spent three seasons as an assistant to Francisco “Boo” Hardy at Harrison Central following one season as a junior high coach at North Gulfport.
First contact started Monday and Lyle had the job by the end of the week, capping a process he called “a dream come true.”
“To say it”s a golden opportunity and that I”m excited would be a gross understatement,” Lyle said. “I”m extremely excited to get my first job in a place I”m very familiar with.”
Harrison Central went 53-32 with Lyle as an assistant, and he”s confident the tutelage he received from Hardy and the experience coaching against Class 6A competition in the public school league will help the learning curve he”ll ride being a first-year head coach.
“Being able to handle the pressure just being the focal point of the program will be new as you get the attention, whether it be negative or positive,” Lyle said. “Being an assistant, I never had that before. Expectations from the community, parents and the school and how to handle that will be new, but luckily I had a head coach at Harrison who allowed me to be involved with the media and prepared me to be a head coach. I learned an awful lot under coach Hardy about how to teach young men how to become men and become winners.”
The Volunteers won just a single game last season after winning 20-plus matches the year before. The team experience vast turnover from the previous season and fielded an inexperienced group in Stringer”s final season.
However, Lyle experienced a similar situation at Harrison Central.
After going 23-8 and falling in the playoffs to eventual 5A state champion Biloxi, Harrison posted a .500 record the following season. The highs turned to lows quickly, but the key was positive energy and maintaining a consistent level of excitement.
“I”m familiar with a program that”s struggled, but the you have to look at the positives of the people you are working with,” Lyle said. “They”ve had down times, but all that tells me is they”re hungry to win. I realize it won”t be an overnight success story but I believe we can compete at the highest level.”
During his time at Harrison Central, Lyle coached against Mississippi Association of Independent School teams Madison-Ridgleand Academy and Jackson Academy.
He describes his system as “up-tempo” but said offensive sets will be multiple to suit the roster.
“I”m like (Mississippi State had football coach) Dan Mullen in the fact that we”ll adapt to what we have,” Lyle said. “We”re going to be multiple as far as what we like to run set-wise. I”m going to really stress defense. Defense is the big reason you win championships.”
Lyle prepped at Temple Christian School in Gulfport, winning a district title before finishing his senior year at Gulfport.
He will teach social studies at SA and hopes to make it up to Starkville at the beginning of next week.
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