Wednesday, July 03, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle's Rountree takes over JHS ladies

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville reached a short distance into Lonoke County to pluck one of its more successful coaches to take over the helm of the defending state champion girls’ basketball program. Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson on Friday offered the position to former Carlisle boys coach William Rountree, who has never had a losing season in his eight years of leading the Bison boys.

Rountree takes over a JHS girls program fresh off its first-ever state championship, led by recently resigned Katrina Mimms, and features four returning starters from that team. The one starter lost was perhaps the best player in the state, in 6-foot-3 guard-forward Jessica Jackson, who will suit up for the Arkansas Razorback women this fall. Coincidentally, Jackson’s father is from Carlisle.

Though only 30 miles separate the two schools, they are different in many ways. Jacksonville’s enrollment is almost quadruple of Carlisle’s, and is in an urban setting whereas Carlisle is a farming community.

Rountree embraces the opportunity, and the change that comes with it.

“Different is cool with me,” said Rountree. “I’m good with different. Any time you’re doing something new, it brings back the idea that we try to teach as educators of being lifelong learners. I’m very excited about this opportunity and am very much looking forward to it.”
Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson interviewed accepted dozens of applications and interviewed 14 candidates before deciding on the former head Bison.

“He was the best interview,” began Wilson. “He’s led successful programs and I was impressed with his attitude and work ethic. He’s committed for the long haul and he presented a good plan for maintaining a successful program. He’s personable and we’re going to have a lot of new coaches in our girls program that will have to work together. He seemed like just the right fit to lead all this transition.”

Though he’s spent the last five years coaching boys, Rountree doesn’t come to Jacksonville without experience coaching girls. His coaching career began in 1989 in Gravette as the head baseball coach, as well as head junior high boys football and basketball. After two years there, he left for Omaha, Ark., where he spent one year as the boys head basketball coach, and one year coaching the boys and girls high school and junior high teams.

After spending one year in the private sector, Rountree returned to coaching in 1996 as head boys basketball coach at Deer. After two years there, he took the boys and girls senior and junior high coaching positions at Winslow, and stayed there for six years. He spent the last three as high-school principal as well.

He spent eight of his most successful seasons coaching boys high school and junior high basketball at Carlisle starting in 2003 and interrupted by one season at Sylvan Hills and one in Cross County from 2006-08.

His first three years at Carlisle saw three conference and two district tournament championships, as well as two junior high conference and district titles.

“Of the 12 conference and district tournaments we played in those three years, we won nine of them,” Rountree said.

Rountree left Carlisle for two years while going through a divorce. While he says he developed good relationships and learned a lot during his time away from Carlisle, he calls those two years his only regret in his coaching career.

“It’s nothing against Sylvan Hills,” Rountree said. “I got to know Kevin Davis and Bee Rodden, and they’re wonderful people and great coaches. I just regret that I left, really, over nothing more than hurt pride. I had a pretty talented team coming back and we were on a great run. That’s really the only thing I regret about my whole career.”

Rountree came back to Carlisle, where he’s been for the last five seasons. It took this year’s team a few weeks to find its rhythm, with most of the starters still playing for the semifinal football team weeks into the season. Once it did hit its stride, it advanced all the way to the regionals, including a win over then No. 1 ranked Clarendon.

Rountree learned of the opening at Jacksonville while talking to Pulaski County athletic director Danny Ebbs, who Rountree has known for years and calls one of his mentors. After some consideration and conversations with his wife, he decided to apply.

“I jumped on the website, applied, and was fortunate enough to be called for an interview,” Rountree said. “I was extremely impressed with the athletic director Jerry Wilson. I met with coach Joyner (JHS boys coach Victor Joyner) and I was very impressed with him before I met him. I’ve seen some of his teams play and I know what kind of quality coach they have there. Coach Mimms has been very gracious and helpful and getting me information she thinks will benefit me. Everything has just been great so far. Everything has been all positive. I couldn’t be happier or more excited about this.”