Friday, May 20, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Former assistant at helm for Lonoke

Lonoke High School completed one coaching search this week, hiring Heath Swiney as the new head girls’ basketball coach. Swiney replaces Nathan Morris, who took over the program in 2007, and has also served as the athletic director for the last several years.
Morris recently accepted the position as superintendent for the Two Rivers Consolidated School District near Ola.

Swiney spent the last year as head boys’ basketball coach at Newport High School and junior high. Before that, he was at Lonoke for five years as assistant boys’ basketball, assistant football and assistant softball coach.

“There are some places you just feel really comfortable,” said Swiney about his decision to return to Lonoke after one year away. I was there for five years. I felt like I fit in really well there, and I just love Lonoke.”

Swiney, a Bradford native, spent the first four years of his coaching career at Bradford before coming to Lonoke. There he was the assistant basketball coach for boys and girls for one year, before taking over the boys program for three years.

His first two years at LHS he was assistant boys’ basketball and assistant junior high football. He added assistant softball his third year, then spent his last two years on just basketball and softball.

While he has little experience coaching girls’ basketball, his softball experience has taught him the slightly different nuances between coaching boys and girls.

“Really, coaching is coaching,” Swiney said. “It’s a little bit different but it’s still coaching kids. The hardest part about coaching anything is getting kids to bust it, to go all out and give that effort. Lonoke kids already do that.

“Coach Morris has taught that, so that won’t even be a question. He’s done a great job of keeping that tradition going. He stepped into a pretty good situation with what the guys before him had done, and he’s leaving a really good program behind. I just want to be able to keep that tradition growing.”

The Lady Jackrabbits lose two starters, but return several key players as well. Swinney, who is still employed at Newport until the end of the school year, got to come down and oversee a workout at Lonoke on Wednesday.

“There’s some really good athletes and good basketball players there,” Swinney said. “And the really good thing about it is, I’m going to have most of them at least two years. There’s a couple going to be juniors and some sophomores, and I think they’ll have a chance to be really good. There are some really strong teams in this league so we have to keep improving, but I’m excited to get back and get started.”