New kid in town packs plenty of punch for West Forsyth

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2018

By Marc Pruitt
For the Clemmons Courier

Howard West smiled as he recalled some of  the memories he has of being the visiting coach at Simpson Gymnasium at West Forsyth.

This season, his first of as the head coach at West, and for what he hopes are many more leading the Titans, will be sure to bring many more of those special memories.

Only this time around, he will be wearing and representing the green and gold.

West wasn’t sure how many times his teams at Reynolds or Reagan, Central Piedmont 4-A foes, played games against West Forsyth during his career at both places, but he knows there were plenty of wins — and his fair share of losses.

“Maybe they will be cheering for me now and not booing me,” West said with a hearty laugh. “I’m excited. I’m enjoying being out here. People are being great to me. People in the community are being great to me. Everybody knows our history. We have a lot of history here.”

West brings quite the pedigree to the Titans after coaching at Forsyth Country Day the last five seasons.

He will enter his 46th season as a head coach with a career record of 801-368 — the third most wins in North Carolina high school history behind Freddy Johnson, who coaches at Greensboro Day, and the late Harvey Reid, who finished his career with Wilson Fike.

Among those 801 wins are three consecutive NCHSAA 4-A state championships when he was at Reynolds from 1988-2005. Kevin King, who was an assistant coach with West during those title runs with the Demons, will be back on the bench with him this season.

“The band is back together,” West said. “Kevin has an exceptional basketball mind and has been a successful head coach the last several years at North Surry. He will bring in a lot of his knowledge of the game for us as well.”

West left the Demons when Reagan opened in 2005 and built the basketball program from scratch, leaving there to coach at Forsyth Country Day before the lure of public-school basketball brought him back to a place somewhere more familiar.

“Every time I have changed jobs, it’s always fresh for me to start something new,” West said. “There is a renewed energy. It’s a new set of challenges. New kids, new administration. New facilities. I’ve already seen some ways to improve things. And when I leave, I want to leave my mark on the program and leave it in good hands for the next coach.”

West will take over a team that finished 9-16 last year and was besieged by injuries.

“We’ve got some experience coming back and they’ve been working really hard for me,” West said. “It’s just going to take a little while. I’ve been getting my philosophy in, my organization in, my expectations in, but the one thing I haven’t had to coach yet — these kids play hard. I don’t have to coach their effort. I love kids like that. I can go to war with them night in and night out.”

Depending on how many football players decide to try out, West said he could have as many as seven players returning with varsity experience. Some of the players he knows are returning — Ryan Ayers, Alex Reid, Kelvin Johnson, and Jay Mitchell — will be counted on for their leadership.

Peyton Brown, a 6-10 post player who didn’t see much playing time last season, will be a presence in the post for the Titans and will provide depth, a trademark in all of West’s teams.

“I may have 15 on the team, I may have 12 or 13,” West said. “As many people as I play each game, we will need it. And that builds continuity in the program, especially if some of those kids are freshman and sophomores.

“The enthusiasm I have seen so far is contagious, especially from the returning seniors. I’m excited about the challenge. I know it’s going to be hard to turn it around in one year, but the effort is there. And when the effort is there, the victories will take care of themselves. That’s all I can ask for.”