Opp hires new girls coach

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, June 18, 2014

0618 spt-Jim Larson

New Opp coach Jim Larson (far right) coaches while at Livingston Central. | Courtesy photo

Andy native Jim Larson to head Lady Bobcats basketball team

Jim Larson knows good talent when he sees it, and as Opp High School’s new girls basketball coach he’s anxious and excited to watch his vision play out on the court.

The Opp City Board of Education approved Larson’s hiring at its Tuesday morning meeting.

Larson, a former Andalusia High School basketball player and graduate, has spent the last 14 years coaching at different schools in the western part of Kentucky. For the last three years, the 22-year veteran coach has been the head girls coach and athletic director at Livingston Central High School, a small school of about 350 students, where he led them to three consecutive district championships.

“I know players win games and you’ve got to have talent,” Larson said. “I know that talking through the people who I know down there, that there are some good girls that I’ll have on that team. Maybe I can add to that with my priorities and experience. Maybe I can teach them my system and take advantage of their abilities.”

Larson replaces former Opp coach SaRhonda Dickerson, who left OHS for Greenville.

In his first year at Livingston, Larson went 25-6 with a talented bunch of girls. In the year prior to his arrival at the small school in Kentucky, LCHS went 13-15. His first stint as a girls coach came prior to his tenure at LCHS.

This past season, Larson started two eighth graders among 13 players, nine of which were freshmen. LCHS finished 12-16 last season.

Before moving up to Kentucky, Larson taught middle school and was an assistant boys basketball coach at Valdosta High School in Valdosta, Ga. While at VHS, he helped lead the boys to a state runner up finish.

It was while at Valdosta that Larson felt the call to become a head coach. That particular opportunity came after he started coaching in Kentucky, a mere five years later.

Larson’s first taste at coaching girls came at a private school in the Bluegrass State, where he also served as AD.

In Kentucky, high schools compete with other schools in the state regardless of classification. Instead of area tournaments here in Alabama, there are district tournaments which are followed up by regional tournaments.

There are no classes at regional tournaments when it comes to teams facing each other, Larson said.

Besides moving closer to his mom, Jane, and sisters, Karen and Jan, who all live in Birmingham, Larson said being able to coach a team who will compete with other teams in its same classification was a big draw to move back.

“That’s what excites me about coming home — is getting back into a class system, where you compete against schools your own size,” he said. “I know there are great coaches there.”

While a player at AHS, Larson played under Bulldogs boys coach Richard Robertson and the late, Louis Berry.

“They helped to shape my beliefs,” he said. “It’s not about me and I’m definitely not a ‘me’ guy. It’s about the girls of Opp High School and the opportunity to do great things on and off the court.”

He developed a coaching philosophy that falls in line with what Robertson and Berry taught him while a player.

“I’m big on the team aspect of everybody doing their job and everybody being accountable to each other — leaders leading younger people and them getting better and everybody contributing in their own way,” Larson said. “We’ve put together a little system at the school I was at, and it turned out to be a pretty successful way to do things. I hope it will translate. Hopefully we can make them better and get them to a championship level.”

About two weeks ago, Larson had to have surgery in his neck to fix an old issue. He said he thanks Opp Middle School Principal Aaron Hightower and the school system for their patience while he recovers from the surgery.

“They’ve shown a great deal of faith because of my physical limitations and the timing hasn’t been the best,” he said. “I’m unable to travel and just as soon as I can get clearance form the doctor, I’ll make my way down there. I have a lot of classmates, friends and relatives down there. It’s just an opportunity to come home.

“People work their whole lives to get the opportunity to go home and hopefully this will be the last of the moves that I make in my career,” he said.