Jerome Williams’ basketball mission has not changed. But he won’t be carrying it out at Findlay Prep.
Williams said Tuesday he will not return for a second season as the Pilots’ coach after a meeting with the program’s namesake and benefactor, Cliff Findlay.
“I had a conversation with Mr. Findlay (Monday night), and he wanted to move in a new direction,” Williams said. “I thank him for giving me the opportunity to work at Findlay Prep and coach this team during the 2013-14 year. …
“In my heart, I’m glad I got to do it for a year. I wish it could have been longer, but there’s no negativity on my end in terms of what Findlay Prep basketball is about and the education these players are getting.”
Findlay did not return a voice-mail message Tuesday seeking comment.
Williams, who retired from the NBA in 2005 after nine seasons, was a volunteer assistant at Findlay under former coach Michael Peck and also spent three seasons as the program’s director of player development. Known as the “Junkyard Dog” during his playing days, Williams was named head coach in August after Todd Simon was hired as an assistant at UNLV.
The Pilots finished 31-5 in Williams’ lone season at the helm and reached the semifinals of the High School National Tournament before losing 64-55 to Oak Hill (Va.). The highlight of the Pilots’ season was a 67-59 victory over previously unbeaten Rainier Beach (Wash.) in the quarterfinals of the HSNT.
However, the five losses were the most since the 2006-07 season, the program’s first year. Findlay Prep’s 92-game home winning streak was snapped in December, and the Pilots also lost high-profile matchups against Prime Prep (Texas), Montrose Christian (Md.) and Bishop Gorman.
The Pilots, who featured UNLV recruit Rashad Vaughn, opened the season with 12 players but had only seven available for the HSNT. Findlay Prep finished No. 6 in the USA Today Super 25.
“To see the guys be able to overcome adversity was a huge blessing and why I’m so proud of the team, coaching staff and Mr. and Mrs. Findlay for putting it all together,” Williams said.
Williams, who put an emphasis on education and community service during his time with the Pilots, said he will continue to work with young players in various capacities.
The future of Findlay Prep’s remaining players is unclear, however. The Pilots’ roster this season had seven underclassmen, including three from Canada, where Williams maintained numerous contacts from his time with the Toronto Raptors.
“I will still support the Findlay Prep program and do anything I can to help kids here and all over the world,” Williams said. “We’ll see what the Lord has in store. I know this is definitely a passion of mine and I enjoy doing it, so we’ll see what happens. Rest assured, I will be helping kids somewhere along the way.”
■ CHAPARRAL PROMOTES NIHIPALI — Chaparral hired assistant Paul Nihipali as head football coach, athletic director Matt Balodis said.
“He knows the kids, and he knows his football,” Balodis said. “This was the best thing for our program in terms of continuity and stability.”
Nihipali is a former offensive coordinator at Chaparral and has been at the school since 2006. He replaces Bill Froman, who resigned after going 8-19 in three seasons. The Cowboys have not made the postseason since 2007.
■ RECENT COMMITMENTS — Palo Verde senior Brad Steiner to Chapman University (Calif.) and Legacy senior Dwight Taylor to Cerro Coso College (Calif.) for baseball. … Sierra Vista senior Mikko Balmes to Umpqua Community College (Ore.) for men’s basketball. … Basic senior Cody Mastrodomenico to the University of Great Falls (Mont.) for men’s golf. … Arbor View senior Danielle Sheridan to Mayville State (N.D.) for softball. … Bonanza junior Alizabeth Bigger to Corban University (Ore.) and Green Valley senior Jessica Messer to Cochise College (Ariz.) for women’s soccer.
Contact reporter David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.